Apple iPad is a serious rival for netbook sales

ABI Research has spent some time looking at how the netbook market is evolving, and the effect that the iPad has had when put into the mix.

It seems fairly obvious to most that the iPad, even though it’s a new and different kind of product, has carved itself a niche that will reduce the current market share taken by small portable devices, like net-books. But it’s also possible that the iPad will impact on at least some MacBook or iPod sales for Apple.

However, even as there are those that prefer the relative complexity of keeping a Windows PC running smoothly over the comparative simplicity of keeping a Mac in tune. There will be those that still want a traditional keyboard, screen and clamshell designed portable of the dimensions and power of a net-book, over an iPad.

Jeff Orr, from ABI Research, has said that they “expect the net-book market to fragment according to different regional value propositions. Functionality will be added to mainstream net-book products while at the same time an entry-level net-book solution will grow, with the aim of targeting some large emerging markets (including China and India) where PC penetration is still quite low.”

ABI Research quoted figures for 2009 that showed, by their estimation, that approximately 35 million notebooks would ship during that year. The actual final figures were 36.3 million. So they were not too far off.

This year they are predicting some 58 million.

From various surveys conducted in the US, around 40% of people who said they are buying an iPad, said they were doing so instead of a net-book. Another 40%, as I alluded to earlier, said they were doing so instead of an iPod touch. So there is your possible dual cannibalisation of sales figures.

When you do some research it is expected that Apple will sell up to 20 million iPads in the product’s first year. That’s a large chunk of this years predicted 58 million, but still leaves the net-book share at roughly the same level as last year.

Interestingly Net-book sales climbed around 641 percent year-on-year in 2009. But it should be remembered it was still a relatively new market then. So growth would be incendiary.

Figures this year tend to suggest a massive slowing in that market growth, down to a surprisingly low expansion of 5%. This appears to be, at least in part, in direct reaction to the iPad’s introduction. The source for these net-book figures was Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty.

It’s early days yet, and all the markets, and products we are looking at are incredibly young. So figures will be incredibly volatile as data is collated further, and settles. I am also grabbing what data is available and drawing some fairly broad strokes on a virtual graph. So do take these figures on board with some caution.

But one thing is certain, the iPad has had a very big impact on the current sales dynamic for small portable computers.

Do you think the iPad will stunt net-book sales? Or even perhaps effectively kill them off? Let us know in the comments.

[abiresearch]

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