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Study: Consumers confused over Netbooks vs. notebooks

Only 58 percent of Netbook consumers are very satisfied with their purchases, an NPD Group report says. Unhappiness stems from confusion over capabilities of a Netbook.

Quick question: What's the difference between a Netbook and a notebook? Apparently, a lot of people aren't sure.

Only 58 percent of consumers who bought a Netbook over a notebook said they were very satisfied with their purchase, according to a study released Tuesday by researcher NPD Group. That compares with a 70 percent satisfaction rate from consumers who planned on buying a Netbook from the start.

NPD found that the level of dissatisfaction stemmed from confusion over the capabilities of a Netbook. The study, "NPD's Netbooks II: A Closer Look," discovered that 60 percent of the people questioned bought a Netbook instead of a notebook thinking the two have the same functionality.

In general, Netbooks are smaller, cheaper, and less powerful than traditional notebooks, but the line is blurring.

Among the people surveyed for the study, performance and portability were two key factors in the decision of whether to buy a Netbook or a notebook. Among 18 to 24 year olds, 65 percent said they bought a Netbook expecting better performance. But only 27 percent said their Netbooks performed better than expected.

NPD asked consumers which was the more important factor in choosing a Netbook: portability or price? Around 60 percent chose portability, while about 40 percent were more driven by pricing. However, 60 percent of buyers admitted that after the purchase, they never took their Netbooks out of the house.

"We need to make sure consumers are buying a PC intended for what they plan to do with it," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. "Retailers and manufacturers can't put too much emphasis on PC-like capabilities and general features that could convince consumers that a Netbook is a replacement for a notebook. Instead, they should be marketing mobility, portability, and the need for a companion PC to ensure consumers know what they are buying and are more satisfied with their purchases."

Speaking to CNET News, Baker further noted that the operating system on the Netbook proved important to buyers, more so than brand, since consumers seem open to many different brands.

"People really value what the operating system is," said Baker. "That was basically the No. 1 feature that they were concerned about. Brand wasn't quite so important."

From the survey results, Baker also found that online stores are a major source for Netbooks--40 percent of the consumers questioned bought their Netbooks over the Internet. Third-party outlets seem to be competing heavily against the manufacturers' own Web sites.

"I think Netbooks are a product type that do better online," said Baker. "It's not as stressful a purchase. Given the fact that these aren't real configurable products, it's just as easy for somebody to buy at Amazon as it is at HP.com."

The study was based on a survey completed in May by nearly 600 adult consumers from NPD's online panel who were identified as Netbook owners.