The iPad is selling really, really well right now. And it’s not a complete surprise. It’s one of the cheapest, easiest to use tablet computers ever to hit the market. It won’t be the last, and there’s a chance that by this time next year a dozen Android, WebOS, or Windows 7 tablets could be fighting with the iPad for dominance in this space.
But does that mean that the iPad is crushing other product categories, such as netbooks? Maybe, maybe not. There’s certainly some overlap in audience. Netbooks are cheap computers, often with long battery life, which many people purchase primarily for surfing the web on the go or on the couch. The Apple iPad is pretty good at those things too.
But netbooks have keyboards, run Windows apps, and are generally just small PCs. And iPad isn’t.
So when Digitimes reported this morning that Asus is adjusting its third quarter netbook shipment targets, in response to the iPad… I got a little skeptical. I think the reason the targets are changing is simple: Asus is shipping fewer netbooks. But is it because of the iPad?
If we lived in a vacuum and the only two products you could choose from were Asus netbooks and the Apple iPad, then it might not be that hard to find an answer. But even if that were the case, there’s another factor to consider. Asus has been selling netbooks since 2007, while the iPad has only been available for a few months. It’s possible that one of the reasons netbook sales are slowing is because many of the people who want one have already bought one. Until it breaks or something truly revolutionary comes along to convince them to purchase a new netbook, they’ll probably hang onto the computer they spent a few hundred bucks on last year.
But we don’t live in a vacuum, and it’s not just the iPad and Asus netbooks. There are 10 inch notebooks from Acer, HP, Dell, and a dozen other companies competing with Asus on the netbook front. What’s more, there are a growing number of 11.6 inch and 12.1 inch notebooks which are bigger, more powerful, and have higher resolution displays than netbooks — but which don’t weight much more, get similar battery life, and are still selling for around $500. I think it’s just as likely that these notebooks are eating into netbook sales as it is that the iPad is.
Of course, Asus and other companies are hedging their bets. Pretty much every major PC makers is expected to launch some form of tablet computer in the next year. And there’s a decent chance that some of them will actually sell pretty well. But it’s too early to say whether that means the netbook category is going to disappear altogether. It may shrink, due to a wider range of budget portable computers to choose from. But that’s a far cry from saying that the iPad killed the netbook star.