The Internet has made market research much simpler. Amazon is a gift to investors: it's an important data source for online sales, and provides listings of its bestsellers, most gifted and most wished for products. Those lists make interesting reading.
Look at Amazon's Laptops Bestseller List, for example. The top 3 products are:
In fact, HP has 5 of the top 10 laptops, Sony 4 and Nokia 1. Surprisingly, Apple notebooks don't appear in the Bestsellers list. Perhaps consumers just prefer to buy Apple laptops directly from Apple, and pay the local sales tax...
However, the Most Gifted in Computers & PC Hardware List tells a different story. The top 3 products are:
Of the top 10 sellers, Apple holds 3 slots, HP 3 slots, Asus 2 slots, and Nokia one slot.
Asus? Taiwanese PC manufacturer Asustec offers a tiny laptop called the Asus Eee (pictured right). It weighs less than 2 pounds, is bump and shock resistent, and sells for $399 or $499 depending on the storage.
The Eee's appearance on one of Amazon's bestseller lists is a critical milestone for the PC manufacturers: Internet connectivity and online apps have become good enough that local storage and processing matter less. And that means a new generation of popular, highly portable laptops that cost under $500.
The Asus Eee and its ilk haven't yet made a dent in the revenues or margins of Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL) or HP (HPQ). But before investors in those stocks get complacent, they should check out Amazon's Most Wished For Notebooks list.
Oh, and did I mention that the Asus Eee doesn't use Microsoft (MSFT) Windows, and has no hard disk drive from Seagate (STX), Western Digital (WDC) or the other hard disk drive manufacturers? If the Eee marks the beginning of a new trend in laptops, it's not good news for those stocks.
If you want to find out which companies do supply components for the Asus Eee, the Internet has also made that easier. Seeking Alpha's search function scans all the free articles and conference call transcripts we publish. So it's easy to see which companies' transcripts come up in a search for Asus.