According to Acer, the netbook trend will grow more quickly than what some Western analysts have predicted.

Global shipments for netbooks will reach 25 to 30 million this year, Acer chairman J.T. Wang told Digitimes last week. That compares with Garner's forecast of 21 million.

Next year, though, Wang says IT spending will turn around, but buyers will still keep it cheap. That's why Wang predicts the global netbook market will double to 50 million. By comparison, Gartner did not project netbooks reaching that level until 2012.

Wang's claim is also notable because it means that 1 in 4 laptops sold next year will be a netbook. In other words, many buyers - whether for home or business - don't really need the extra power of a Core 2 Duo CPU, multiple gigabytes of RAM, a bigger screen, and ports for various accessories.

If he's right, it means less income for hardware makers, and probably for Microsoft, which will have a hard time convincing buyers of £250 netbooks to pay extra to upgrade their version of Windows XP or Windows 7. Still, despite the lean margins, competition for netbook sales will be fierce - it's one of the few growth areas in the PC industry.