With the line between netbooks and entry-level laptops getting increasingly blurry in 2009, we've wondered how much longer these underpowered machines will remain relevant in the market. But as a year of challenging economic conditions draws to a close, it's clear that the relatively low price tags have made netbooks a hot item among consumers.

According to new data from DisplaySearch, shipments soared to a staggering 33.3 million units this year, more than double the 16.4 million netbooks that shipped in 2008. In terms of revenue the segment raked in some $11.40 billion, which equates to a 72% increase compared to the $6.65 billion amassed last year.

Despite increased shipments in every other segment, netbook's lower prices actually dragged down revenue for the entire notebook industry by 12% to about $109.4 million. By category, year-to-year revenue from ultra-portables having 11.6" and 12 " displays fell 23% to $6.9 billion; standard notebooks featuring screens from 13" to 16.4" in size dropped 13% to $80.3 billion; and desktop replacements declined 12% to $10.8 billion.

DisplaySearch also suggests netbook shipments in 2010 may only grow by around 19% due to the emergence of more capable ultra-thin notebook systems sporting prices below the $500 mark.