Reports of tablets' disruptive impact on PCs have emphasized how devices such as the iPad are weakening the market for netbooks, laptops, and traditional desktops. Goldman Sachs went as far as calling tablets one of the most disruptive forces in personal computing in nearly 30 years.
But retail and consumer research firm NPD is countering those claims in a new report, which shows that the rate of cannibalization is actually declining with more recent purchasers.
The report shows that only 14 percent of early iPad adopters (those who purchased one within its first six months on the market) abandoned a PC purchase as a result. That number dropped to 12 percent when looking at those who picked up iPads over the most recent holiday season.
"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," NPD's VP of Industry Analysis Stephen Baker said in a press release. "Overall it appears that the vast majority of iPad purchases to-date have been incremental to the consumer technology industry."
According to the report, the cannibalization of netbooks in particular by the iPad is down 50 percent in recent iPad buyers when compared to early adopters. Meanwhile, the consumer market for Windows-based notebooks priced below $500 grew by 21 percent in the six-month period ending March 31 of this year, while the over-$500 market took a hit of 25 percent in the same period.
"The conventional wisdom that says tablet sales are eating into low- priced notebooks is most assuredly incorrect," Baker said.
One more interesting note from the report: Carrier sales of the iPad amounted for just three percent of holiday sales, while Best Buy and Apple store sales made up approximately three quarters. Sales of the basic, Wi-Fi-only iPad increased by 33 percent during this timeframe, signifying that consumers don't see 3G connectivity as a major benefit.
"Consumers just do not see the utility in 3G connectivity," Baker said. "There’s an added expense for the device and for the service, something a majority of iPad owners aren’t willing to pay. Since most iPads rarely venture away from home the value of a 3G connection is likely to diminish, especially as other tablets enter the market and pricing starts to fall. When every penny counts, features that aren’t core to the user becoming increasingly marginalized as manufacturers fight for every sale."