iPad: Slayer of Netbook Sales


The iPad may be partially or even primarily responsible for the slow demise of netbook sales, according to Morgan Stanley market (via Fortune) analyst Katy Huberty. In a report released Thursday for Morgan Stanley clients, the impact of the iPad is causally linked to the rapid decline of the netbook sales growth curve.

Netbook sales apparently peaked last summer, when its growth rate reached an impressive 641 percent increase from the  same time the previous year. Since then, it’s been trending downward, though punctuated with some comebacks and maintaining impressive growth overall. Then in January of 2010, things start to go downhill fast, with a dropoff from 68 percent growth that month to only 5 percent in April of 2010.

So what’s the iPad have to do with anything? Apple’s category-spanning device was announced in January of 2010, you may recall, and it was released the following April. Considering that that period perfectly intersects with the netbook’s most significant growth drop-off to date, it’s hard not to see the two as causally related. Especially when Apple moved 1 million iPad units sometime in there, counting pre-orders and sales of the device since its release.

This is only anecdotal, but I’ve seen a number of friends put their Dell hackintoshes up for sale following the iPad announcement and release, in most cases explicitly because they don’t need their little Frankenstein monster anymore now that Apple’s provided its own affordable ultraportable. As a side note, it’s probably a good time to grab a cheap, lightly used hackintosh Mini 9 or 10v if you’re in the market.

It isn’t just the netbook’s sales growth slump that points towards the iPad’s success over those devices, either. In a survey conducted in March, 44 percent of those polled claimed that they were buying the iPad instead of a netbook or notebook PC. And if that same survey is any indication, the iPod touch is next.

41 percent of those polled said they were planning on buying an iPad instead of Apple’s marquee media player device. It can’t really be a surprise to the company, since the price gap between the two isn’t really that significant and you get so much more (screen real estate, connectivity) for your buck with the iPad. My own theory is that Apple intended this, and will try to swing the pendulum back by introducing an iPod touch with camera before doing the same six months later with the iPad.

Will the iPad kill the netbook? I hope so, but I think that device was doomed regardless of whether or not an iPad-type device came around to finish it off. Will it kill the iPod touch? That’s another story altogether, and one that I think will depend heavily on how much further Apple can push the iPhone in terms of market saturation. In theory, I can see the iPad and iPhone squeezing out the iPod touch as the markets of those two more versatile devices expand. What do you think?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: The Future of Netbooks!

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