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Netbook sale growth has plunged in the months after the the iPad hit stores. Why?

The Apple iPad is the quintessential entertainment slab, a computer made of screen that makes the perfect travel companion and Internet browser -- but only for one app at a time. The netbook is basically a small computer. It runs Microsoft Office. It multitasks between Word and the Internet and a music player and Twitter applications. My Acer has an eleven-inch screen (the bigger brother of the netbook family), a nearly normal-sized keyboard, and a battery life around 7 hours. It's everything I need.

The netbook is a work machine on which you can procrastinate. The iPad is a procrastination machine on which you can work, especially if work mostly involves catching up on email.

That's why it seemed unlikely that the iPad would actually "kill" the netbook a few months ago. They're for different audiences. I need something small to access the Internet and put together documents. I'm a netbook. My friend leaves work and wants to relax with a flat-screen that lets him check email between catching up with his favorite shows on Hulu. He's an iPad. The Venn diagrams overlap, naturally, but one shouldn't eclipse the other (not yet, at least).

As Dan Indiviglio wrote, the slowdown in netbook sales earlier this year might have been buyer fatigue. In the first three months of 2009, netbook sales grew by almost 900%. You can't keep up 900% growth forever.

But you also would prefer to see some kind of year-over-year growth, and netbook sales have decelerated to practically zilch in the last three months, while penetration rate (percentage of overall PC sales) has slipped by 50% since November. Apple is really making headway against the kiddie-sized keyboard. It is, as John Paczkowski writes, doing to the the netbook what the netbook did to the laptop.