iPad Xmas? Apple's iPad seizes netbook hearts

May 26, 2010 10:55 AM EDT

Yet more evidence that iPad is taking huge big Pacman-sized bites out of the netbook market comes in a recent survey suggesting the Apple product has already had a huge impact on consumers purchasing plans -- with millions of iPads flying out of Apple's hands.

As I pointed out earlier this month, Wall Street analyst Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley observed iPad sales to be destroying netbook sales.

Not everyone agreed.

Some rejected Huberty's suggestion as hubris, repeating IDC figures which anticipate 60 million netbook sales each year by 2013.

NPD Group analyst, Stephen Baker, instead observed:

"Certainly the growth rate is coming down. But that's logical. In 2009, netbook sales were a growth story against nothing (in the year before). So it's really a matter of where we are in the development of the product. I'd say it's very difficult at this stage to attribute declining growth of netbooks to the iPad."

Perhaps this is true.

Where's the money?

All the same I'm interested to read this Retrevo Pulse Study, which 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.

It reveals that 30 per cent of consumers decided on an iPad rather than a netbook after the announcement of the device in January.

But this quickly changed:

"Now that the iPad in all its variations is on sale at your local Apple Store, it looks like consumers who are struggling with the decision to buy an iPad or a Netbook are overwhelmingly leaning toward an iPad with 78% in that group going for the iPad," Retrevo reveals.

There's even a tasty graphic (below):

78 percent? That's got to impact the netbook market? Even a netbook-a-holic must accept that...

Meanwhile the argument that low-cost notebooks are taking a slice of netbook sales is confirmed. 65 percent of consumers chose a laptop rather than a netbook in the last year.

Introducing the netbook niche

Retrevo isn't fatalistic for the future of the netbook, saying, "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."

An attractive alternative, rather than a compelling choice?

I'd observe this means the iPad has made netbooks lose their mojo -- and as more tablets from other manufacturers reach the shops (including Sony's possible future Android-powered tablet), what fate for the netbook category?

Faster, iPussycat, run, run, run

Apple meanwhile is reported to be cranking up iPad production to insane levels - 2.5 million per month, according to Sterne Agee analyst, Vijay Rakesh.

Apple's already selling a million iPads a month in the US, and kicks into business in nine more countries later this week.

The only question is if Apple -- or, perhaps, those hapless workers at Foxconn -- can make these things fast enough.

At its present trajectory, Apple (AAPL) is expected to exceed revenues of $100 billion each year within five years -- the company's market cap is expected to exceed that of Microsoft's at some point today.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, May 26, 2010, Apple's stock cap exceeded that of Microsoft. How things have changed since I began watching this stuff.