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NPD: iPad cannibalization of PC market has slowed


A new report from market research firm NPD claims that the iPad's cannibalization of the PC market has slowed, as new purchasers of the device are less likely to have forgone a PC purchase than were early adopters.

NPD revealed its findings in a press release entitled "Consumer PC Market May Be Weak But It Isn't Because of the iPad" earlier this week. According to the group's Apple iPad Owner Study II report, 12 percent of iPad owners abandoned a PC purchase over the recent holiday season, compared to 14 percent of iPad users who had owned the device for six months or more.

It should be noted, however, that the group's survey does not appear to take into account the recent launch of the iPad 2. Though the online survey was completed in March of this year, many of the sales figures relate to the fourth quarter of 2010.

Cannibalization of netbooks, which were largely seen as having been hit the hardest by the growth in iPad sales, is down by 50 percent among recent iPad buyers, when compared to early adopters, the report noted. A separate study by NPD found the under $500 segment of the Windows consumer notebook market grew by 21 percent between September 2010 and March 2011, making it the largest segment of the consumer notebook market.

"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 NPD vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker. "Overall it appears that the vast majority of iPad purchases to-date have been incremental to the consumer technology industry."

After U.S. PC sales contracted by 10.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011, analysts were quick to ascribe the decline to the 'iPad effect.' Last month, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty revised her 2011 PC shipment estimates downward with predictions of a tablet cannibalization rate of 29 percent in 2011.

NPD found that 75 percent of consumers who purchased an iPad "had no intentions of buying anything else," likely resulting in the addition of "billions of dollars to the industry's coffers" after declining Average Sales Prices had drained the market for years. The iPad has also driven accessory revenues, as 83 percent of iPad owners reported having purchased an accessory for their iPad.

According to the report, expanded distribution of the iPad in the fourth quarter of 2010 had little impact on sales shares, as Best Buy and Apple made up 75 percent of sales of the device during the period. On the other hand, carriers appeared to struggle, comprising just 3 percent of iPad sales due to "consumers' indifference to 3G connectivity."

"Consumers just do not see the utility in 3G connectivity," said Baker. "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."

NPD's findings on distribution run counter to an earlier assertion by Baker that expanded distribution of the iPad 2 is key to Apple's success. In a post to the company's official blog in early March, Baker wrote that "Apple's distribution clearly needs to expand into more regional CE outlets and test more alternative distribution opportunities like department and home stores."

Last year, NPD revealed that early adopters of the iPad were more satisfied with the device than other customers.