You may have noticed an absolute slew of articles recently which are proclaiming that netbook sales have retreated significantly in the face of Apple’s new iPad. Why media outlets are so quick to bow to Steve Job’s every word isn’t clear to me and has never been – let the company pay for its own marketing – but what we’re seeing here is an example of just how pliable facts can be in the face of a good story. The idea of the iPad coming out and busting the chops of netbooks makes for a good headline. Problem is, it isn’t true at all.
Let’s take the article from Business Week as an example. This hack job begins with:
Apple’s (AAPL) iPad is helping cool the computer industry’s netbook fever. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has made no secret of his disdain for the popular, inexpensive mini-notebooks. “Netbooks aren’t better than anything. They’re just cheap laptops,” Jobs said at the Jan. 27 launch of the iPad tablet computer in San Francisco.
Now, you look at this and think, oh wow! I guess Steve Jobs was right and the iPad really is going to show how netbooks are no good. You’re so smart, Steve!
PC makers are starting to worry that consumers agree. The sales growth of netbooks, priced from $200 to $500 and resembling shrunk-down laptops, slowed markedly in the first quarter, according to market researcher IDC.
Yea. Those stupid PC makers SHOULD worry. The sales growth of netbooks…wait, the sales growth? So netbook sales are still growing?
Netbook shipments to retailers from January through March are expected to grow 33.6% compared with a year ago, to 4.8 million units, IDC says. That’s significantly slower growth than in the first quarter of 2009, when netbook sales leapt 872%, to 3.6 million units. “Everyone tried to make these mini-notebooks out to be a different category, or different type of device,” says IDC analyst Richard Shim. “In fact, people think of them as just another type of PC.”
Here’s a news flash, Business Week. If a category of product doesn’t exist, and then suddenly does and becomes popular, the sales growth is going to be pretty damn high because there were hardly any products to even sell in the proceeding year. There isn’t a product in the world that could continue a sales growth rate of 872%. It isn’t until page two of the article that Business Week acknowledges that netbooks aren’t going anywhere.
To be sure, absolute netbook sales have increased from a year ago. “They’re going to be a permanent part of the landscape,” says Shim.
But just to make sure readers don’t think for themselves, they immediatly follow that with more baseless speculaton.
But consumers have become less willing to give up features available on full-priced laptops—such as the ability to play video games or edit photos—in favor of netbooks’ low price, he says. And full-fledged laptops are themselves becoming slimmer and smaller.
The article goes on a bit more about how the iPad is wonderful and backs up their speculation with a rumor that HP and Dell don’t want to build 10 inch netbooks anymore, which has been denied by Dell anyway.