Why the "Warm And Cuddly" iPad Isn't Eating Netbook Market Share ... Yet


The iPad is a potential savior for so many moribund industries — from newspapers to 8-bit gaming — but a disruptive threat to others, such as tiny PC laptops (AKA netbooks). New survey data, however, seems to suggest that netbook sales aren't being cannibalized by Apple's tablet. In the future, your mileage may vary.

The key figure in the survey, which NPD released today, is that 87% of iPads were bought as "incremental purchases." In other words they bought them because they wanted them as an extra device, not because they wanted to replace an existing computer. Which could also prove the average U.S. consumer has at least $500 more to spend on gadgets than they did a few years back.

NPD's VP of industry analysis Stephen Baker says the iPad has nothing to do with the oft-quoted slowdown in netbook sales that manufacturers are seeing in 2010, since the slowdown began before the iPad arrived. This new statistic certainly seems to support his thinking. Our one niggle: those consumers, having "incrementally" dropped $500 on an iPad, may later reconsider plans to buy another portable computer ($500 is a lot of money, and once you've played with an iPad you're pretty much hooked). But that kind of thinking is harder to survey. 

Baker understands this, to a degree. He quotes an earlier NPD survey that shows iPad early adopters are 44% more likely to watch YouTube clips, 50% more likely to watch movies, and 38% more likely to read e-books. These activities are "a dagger at the heart of the usage model for netbooks and secondary notebook computers," Baker says, because doing them on an iPad is way more comfortable than on a netbook. And since 20% of iPad users' time was in bed — insert raised eyebrow here — this is significant. The iPad, Baker notes, "makes people feel warm and cuddly".

So what's the conclusion? Claims that the iPad is cannibalizing netbook sales are not necessarily supported by the data. But the way you use iPads mean they penetrate further into your life in ways a netbook could never manage. For example: You may feel more comfortable taking the iPad into the bath to read, since it's easy to hold, but holding an EEE PC above the suds is a far trickier operation. And it's this change of usage habits that could soon cause the iPad (and other tablets) to eat up PC laptop market share like a voracious snow tiger breaking a fast. 

To keep up with this news follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

Add New Comment


  • George Bush

    You can be sure that tablets in general will not make it mainstream anytime soon or if ever. For one thing, you would look like a real douche for pulling an iPad out in public.It's that Apple crave that's all. The real application of tablets (or large touchscreen devices) are best reside with industrial dashboards or whatever. There's no real productive value in tablets without a keyboard for the consumer class, and that is its paradox. People say it's for reading, but when was the last Apple product that emphasizes reading? People don't read anymore, they prefer to be told through entertainment videos. And there are already essential devices in our lives for that. Like the TVs, laptops, and smartphones. Do you want to carry around an iPad to school without a keyboard? Is there a productive value for students in school? There's no keyboard, how can they type? There's no stylus, how can they write? They can read their virtual books on it at home maybe. An eBook device like the kindle would be preferred to not cause eye-strained. Hell, people probably still prefer the physical and tactile of a ‘real’ book.

    Maybe until the Courier technology is perfected and revived, artists, students, etc can really be productive. But the benefits of the keyboard still can't be match. Unless scientist can miniaturize brain-signal recognition, a tablet factor might be beneficial. However, when that does happen, so will the integrate computer that connect to the neurons to our brains and thus no need for any extension devices. You can close your eyes and browser the interweb some say. So is there a real market for tablets? Probably, but it won't be anywhere near the smartphones and laptops and TVs.