Netbook sales were down in the first quarter. That happens to coincide with the three months leading up to the Apple iPad's release, which will hit stores Saturday. Is this correlation or causation? Some articles noting the decline in netbook sales suggest there's a relationship between these two events, but differences in the target consumers for these devices suggest otherwise.
The argument takes the following form, as provided by Bloomberg:
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.
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.
Yet, the devices are different in so many ways that it's hard to see how anticipation of the iPad could be eating that much into netbook sales.
The most obvious difference is price. As the excerpt above mentions, netbooks tend to be a few hundred dollars each, with $500 at the very top of the range. Yet, the iPad starts at $500. It isn't competing on the same playing field as netbooks. Consumers prepared to spend $500 or more would more likely be purchasing a full-size laptop.