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Sorry, But the iPad is Not 'Killing' Netbook Sales

Hopefully by now, most readers of this site understand how the tech world works: Apple releases a successful product (the iPad) but it suddenly becomes The Second Coming (tm). So much so that Fortune's web-based Mac blog, Apple 2.0, has suddenly decided that--get this--the iPad is "killing" the netbook. Only in the reality distortion field could such nonsense pass as truth. Here's the silliness:

Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty's proprietary research shows ... the impact of the iPad and other tablets on the broader gadget market, starting with netbooks. As her chart shows, sales growth of these low-cost, low-powered computing devices peaked last summer at an astonishing 641% year-over-year growth rate. It fell off a cliff in January and ....

... and these things both happened before the iPad. Just saying. In the case of last summer, when netbook sales peaked, way before the iPad. Before, in fact, we knew what an iPad was. But please, don't let that get in the way of your premise...

... shrank again in April — collateral damage, according to Huberty, from the January introduction and April launch of the iPad.


Here's the thing. Netbook sales growth did slow last summer. (Netbook unit sales are still on the way up.) But it's slowed because of stronger-than-expected sales of larger, full-featured (and more expensive) Windows 7 notebooks, according to IDC, a company that, by the way, actually has a rich history of measuring PC market share. Here's a story about this very fact from The Wall Street Journal, from just last week:

Pricier, more powerful notebook computers are sucking some of the steam from netbooks, the low-priced darlings that helped fuel sales for the PC industry in the past two years.

Many consumers—searching for more computing power than the compact, portable netbooks can deliver—are opting to pay more for laptops with bigger displays and circuitry suited for jobs like manipulating photos and video, which is beyond the capability of most netbooks.

The shift is a sharp reversal of recent buying patterns, when netbooks provided some of the industry's only growth through the recession.

"I think it has taken a lot of folks by surprise," said Brad Brooks, vice president for Windows consumer software marketing at Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft's data—based on unit sales for its operating systems in the first quarter—indicate that laptops in the $550 to $850 range grew faster than the 35% year-over-year growth in overall Windows unit sales to consumers, Mr. Brooks said.

Netbook sales, meanwhile, grew less than 20%, stabilizing at around 12% to 18% of the consumer market in the U.S., Europe and Japan, he said.

However, data from market-researcher NPD suggest netbooks remain extremely popular in the U.S., with sales growing 81% in January compared with the same month in 2009, 73% in February and 48% in March.

Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel Corp., characterizes both tablet PCs and netbooks as "market expansive," rather than taking sales from conventional portable devices.

And IDC is now forecasting that "mininotebook" (i.e. netbooks and sub-12-inch machines) will sell 45.6 million units in 2011 and 60.3 million in 2013. If I remember the numbers from 2009, they were 10 percent of all PCs, or about 30 million units. Explain again how the iPad will beat that. Please. Even the craziest iPad sales predictions are a small percentage of that.

IDC also says that "the current slowdown is not because of the iPad, it is simply a combination of seasonality and the law of big numbers" and that the company "doen't expect much in the way of iPads stealing way sales from netbooks."

So. Who you gonna believe? An Apple blogger from a web site and a Morgan Stanley employee? Or IDC and The Wall Street Journal.

Right. I knew that. And judging from all the press this stupid Apple 2.0 blog post got today, you're not alone.

Pass the Kool-Aid.

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