Bucking popular opinion, NPD now says the Apple iPad isn't to blame for weak consumer PC sales - Windows 7 and huge netbook sales are.
The Apple iPad, and the growing tablet market it spawned,
aren't to blame for faltering consumer PC sales, according to a new report from
research firm NPD. The finding bucks the popular conceit that tablets are
"cannibalizing" the PC market, and netbook sales in particular.
Instead of tablets, the real culprits were the launch of Windows
7 and the accompanying jump in netbook sales, NPD analyst said in the May 10
"The conventional wisdom that says tablet sales are
eating into low-priced notebooks is most assuredly incorrect," Stephen
Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD,
said in a statement. "The over $500 segment of the [Microsoft] Windows
consumer notebooks market is where PC sales have been impacted the most, with a
25 percent decline from October 2010 to March 2011."
According to NPD, 14 percent of consumers who purchased an
iPad six or more months ago - the early adopters - abandoned a PC
purchase in favor of the tablet. Over the 2010 holiday season, that fell to 12
"In fact," NPD said in the statement,
"cannibalization of netbooks is actually down by 50 percent among more
recent iPad buyers, when compared to early adopter buyers."
NPD's Retail Tracking Service found that the under-$500
segment of the Windows consumer notebook market increased by 21 percent during
the six months ending March 2010, making it the biggest segment of the consumer
Sales of iPads to the industry, it appears, are gravy - with
75 percent of consumers who purchased an iPad saying they had no intention of
buying anything else, making those purchases, said NPD, "incremental sales
The iPad and its ilk have additionally helped to put dollars
into the retail market, the firm reported, through sales of accessories. Cases
have been the most popular add-on, with 83 percent of iPad owners springing for
them - and not always with those dollars going back to Apple. Fifty percent of
cases were a non-Apple brand, said the firm, and spreading the wealth across
retailers, more than 50 percent of cases and more than 60 percent of screen
protectors were purchased at a different store than where the iPad was
"Best Buy and Apple sold [75 percent] of all devices
during the holiday period," wrote NPD. "Comparatively speaking, the carrier
stores had much weaker results, accounting for just 3 percent of sales."
Accounting for this, NPD added, is an
"indifference" toward 3G connectivity, with most consumers using
their tablets at home and being content to rely on WiFi.
"When every penny counts, features that aren't core to
the user [become] increasingly marginalized as manufacturers fight for every
sale," it added.
So what's keeping those pennies from PC manufacturers?
"The explosion of computer sales when Windows 7
launched, as well as the huge increase in netbook sales at that time, are much
more to blame for weak consumer PC sales growth than the iPad," said
Baker. "Overall, it appears that the vast majority of iPad purchases to
date have been incremental to the consumer technology industry.
During the first quarter of this year, PC
sales dipped 1.1 percent, to 84.3 million units, by Gartner's count, and
3.2 percent, to 80.1 million, by IDC's. Both firms said tablets were partly to
blame, along with PC vendors' need to step up.
"'Good-enough computing' has become a firm reality,
exemplified first by [netbooks] and now media tablets," IDC
senior research analyst Jay Chou said in an April 13 statement.
"Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC
business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to
enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.