Is the iPad killing netbook sales?

26 May 2010

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Technology buyers in the US who had been saving up for a netbook have overwhelmingly decided to go after the iPad from Apple instead, in a move that signals a potential major erosion in netbook sales in developed economies, a new study reveals.

In past two years, the netbooks took the market by storm. With Intel Atom chip sets, long battery life, small form factors and low price, they offered a great alternative to expensive, bulky laptops.

However, the double whammy of cheaper laptops and the sensational new Apple iPad tablet may be hurting netbook popularity.

A Retrevo Pulse study asked netbook, laptop and iPad owners and buyers what products they considered this past year and what they ended up buying. It also asked what they are currently considering and which products they are leaning toward.

The study estimates that Apple may have grabbed 30pc of those netbook buyers who held off purchasing a netbook and eventually decided on an iPad.

The study also finds that consumers who were struggling with the decision to buy an iPad or a netbook are overwhelmingly leaning towards buying an iPad, with 78pc of that group going towards buying the iPad.

Leaning towards iPad

The study also asks if powerful full-sized laptops are stunting the growth of their tiny netbook cousins.

Laptops offer full-sized keyboards, large displays, optical drives and now, even longer battery life.

While they’re still not as “portable” as netbooks, they are getting cheaper. Of those consumers who wrestled with the decision to buy a netbook or laptop, 65pc chose the laptop and 35pc chose a netbook over a laptop.

The story looks much the same for those now considering a laptop or netbook over the coming year, with 35pc leaning toward a netbook over a laptop and 65pc leaning toward a laptop over a netbook.

Are netbooks still attractive?

“They used to say that in high-tech everything tends to get smaller, cheaper and faster. We might add ‘runs longer’ but whatever you want to say is the most attractive feature of netbooks, price is low on the list,” the study said.

“With netbooks selling close in price to the cheaper laptops, it looks like packaging and portability could become the strongest selling points.

“Intel recently claimed netbooks were going to sell well in countries like Mexico and India, where they may serve as primary computers. However, don’t expect to see the record growth continue for netbook sales in the US.

“As consumers find the iPad irresistible and inexpensive laptops more practical, we predict netbook sales will get squeezed from two sides and will not be able to maintain past growth rates. That said, netbooks should continue to get cheaper and faster and will continue to be an attractive alternative to laptops or other mobile internet devices,” the Retrevo study said.

By John Kennedy

Topmost photo: The Apple iPad

Watch a video review of the iPad here: icon: launch video

leaning towards laptop

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com