Here we go again. Another group is claiming that netbook sales are down largely because of the introduction of the Apple iPad.
Yes, the growth in netbook sales is way down this year from last, while iPad sales are clearly up quite a bit over last year — since there was no iPad last year. While we’ve seen people claim there’s a correlation in the past, I think people tend to get a bit carried away on this point. Yes, Netbook sales were up by several hundred percent in 2009 over the previous year — but that’s largely because until the summer of 2008, there was pretty much only one netbook on the market. You think it might be possible that sales in any new product category might slow down a bit the year after introduction?
On the other hand, a report from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty does carry some weight, since it doesn’t just try to tie together the facts that netbook sales are slowing while Apple is selling a pretty decent number of iPads. It also cites survey data showing that 44% of the folks planning to buy an iPad in the US said they were looking at getting an iPad instead of a notebook or netbook.
So it really is possible that the iPad is at least partially responsible for a dip in netbook sales, because there are some people who don’t need a physical keyboard and a full blown desktop operating system in their mobile devices. They simply want a tablet that allows them to surf the web, get excellent battery life, watch videos, read eBooks, and run the thousands of apps that are available for the iPad. I suspect there will still be enough people who want keyboards and Windows to keep the netbook and/or low cost thin and light laptop space afloat over the next few years, though.
What we’re seeing is that there’s room for more than one kind of mobile internet device — but we already knew that. Netbooks haven’t exactly replaced smartphones, have they?
Morgan Stanley also suggests that iPads may be eating into iPod touch, eBook reader, video game consoles, and desktop computer sales to some degree.