Are you buying ultra-low-cost notebooks yet? Well, someone is

Straight out of the counterintuitive files, a new IDC report projects double digit PC growth despite a funky global economy. The savior: inexpensive notebook computers.

Writing about the Tuesday introduction of new iPods by Apple, American Technology Research's Shaw Wu observed that the product debut came smack in the midst of a lousy economic cycle where "macro headwinds are becoming more apparent."

That qualifies as more than mild understatement.

Atom: Let's get small.

The economy's wheezing, big banks are collapsing and oil prices remain sky high. So then why is PC demand expected to be strong through the end of 2008--and beyond?

That's the gist of a new report out of IDC. No matter that Lehman's on the ropes or that Uncle Sam had to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae before they went insolvent--and the financial sector is a big consumer of IT products. IDC still projects that global PC shipments will grow nearly 16 percent this year and remain at a double-digit pace through 2011.

And the No. 1 reason, according to IDC: the low end of the portable business is super-hot. I suppose the explanation isn't rocket science: when the economy's hurting, who doesn't want to find a bargain?

One other nugget in the IDC report caught my eye: a nascent trend marked by increasing "form factor diversity" in notebooks. The upshot is that with prices dropping, you'll find more people who own several different computers.

And when it comes to inexpensive notebook computer, we're primarily talking about Atom-based machines. Though it's unclear how long Intel will have this business to itself. Dirk Meyer, who now runs Advanced Micro Devices, recently acknowledged that the company also has its eyes on the ultra-low-cost notebook market.

One person who lives and breathes this market is my gadget-loving colleague, Erica Ogg, who explained the pros and cons of the latest notebook computer technology during a segment we recorded Wednesday on the CNET News Daily Debrief. Check it out.

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