All that attention on netbooks at CTIA Wireless 2009 wasn’t without good reason. Today, ABI Research says netbooks just might have an advantage in a depressed economy.

Principal analyst Philip Solis points to three reasons that netbook sales might actually be helped by the recession. First, netbooks are a fairly new class of device, and widespread adoption has only recently begun. Second, they’re relatively inexpensive compared with pricier laptops; and third, they can run on inexpensive operating systems that don’t require powerful hardware.

Three out of every four netbooks shipped last year ran Windows XP as its operating system. But to create a lower-cost device, designers are turning to Linux, and, for netbooks with ARM processors, to several mobile device operating systems such as Android, ABI says. Mobile operating systems such as Android, Windows Mobile and Maemo can still provide the core functionality required of a netbook, but at a lower cost and with smaller storage and memory requirements.

ABI Research pegs 2012 as the tipping point at which netbooks running Linux-based and mobile operating systems will outnumber those running Windows XP. “Device vendors, chip-makers and mobile operators can take some comfort from the fact that this trend should help expand the market, even in a down economy,” Solis says.

At the CTIA show earlier this month, AT&T said that customers in Atlanta will be able to buy a small, netbook-type laptop for $50 if they sign up for home and wireless broadband service plans totaling at least $60 per month (story here).

More Broadband Direct 04/13/09:
•  No let-up on ACA broadband bidding
•  Laguarda joins TWC as VP of external affairs, policy counselor
•  Dish settles with NFL; Comcast up next
•  SMC Networks ships wireless cable modem gateway
•  SCTE seeks nominations for 2009 Expo Awards
•  Toshiba America names Murasawa new CEO, president
•  Juniper Networks' CEO compensation slipped in 2008
•  Economy may help netbooks
•  Broadband Briefs for 04/13/09