Apple iPad Hammering Laptop Sales, Analysts Say

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Cold hard numbers now show that Apple's iPad is indeed cannibalizing the traditional PC market--and laptops in particular. BusinessWeek reported today that global laptop sales have collapsed, from pre-iPad double-digit growth rates to just 1 percent in the first quarter of 2011. As industry analysts cut PC sales forecasts even further, competition is going to be tougher for computer manufacturers.

BusinessWeek depicts Steve Jobs and the iPad as sending destruction to Taiwan, causing a crisis for both Asustek and Acer (and eventually leading to Acer's Chief Executive Gianfranco Lanci to suddenly resign). Meanwhile, BusinessInsider reports HP's consumer PC sales down 12% and Dell's consumer revenue down 8%.

As a result of the slow growth, PC sales estimates are being downgraded. In March, Gartner cut its 2011 PC unit growth forecast a whole five percentage points, from 15.9% to 10.5%, according to CNN. Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore likewise reduced his non-tablet PC unit growth rate estimate for 2011 from 9% to a terribly low 4%, according to AppleInsider.

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The cause? You guessed it. Whitmore estimated that around 30% of iPad owners are using it as a laptop replacement, rather than a supplement. Morgan Stanley analysts also confirmed this trend in September, reporting that the iPad cannibalized 25% of the laptop market since the tablet was first announced (see chart at left).

Even worse news for PC makers is that the tablet market is only growing faster. eMarketer, as quoted in BusinessWeek, estimates a 178% growth rate for tablets this year, with Apple maintaining a 74% share of the market.

Perhaps Steve Jobs' post-PC era truly already has begun. Computer manufacturers are now racing to get their iPad 2 alternatives into consumers' hands.

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But while the good old laptop is definitely down, it's not out for the count yet. Gartner expects PC sales to rebound this year (see chart . The introduction of Windows 8 may also do a lot to revive the PC market. And the latest laptop-friendly processors, AMD's Llano and Intel's Sandy Bridge, are already doing much to generate buzz, perhaps even supercharge PC sales (see chart at right).

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