If iPad isn't cannibalizing Mac sales, what about Windows PCs?

That was my first question after reading a press release about NPD's new report "iPad Owner Study." This is why analysts aren't reporters: The report title has about as much reader appeal as a cardboard box (Maybe Bing or Google search will scoop it up). But, hey, people paying for the report want the data, not flashy titles. As to my question, Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, succinctly told me: The iPad "is cannibalizing nothing in the PC business."

Oh yeah, then why does NPD's press release, issued today, state that "13 percent of iPad owners surveyed bought an iPad instead of a PC." Baker had a good answer for that: "13 percent is a bite, not a cannibal, and just because sales are slowing when iPad is showing up doesn't mean the two are related; and just because everyone sees all these people using iPads doesn't mean they didn't buy a PC now. It may mean that in the future but the numbers argue that Windows 7, tough comparables, flat pricing, weak economy are much more to blame."

Like I've repeatedly asserted, iPad is the cheapest Mac you can buy. That raises the question: Is there really no Mac cannibalization? I ask because of some of the interesting data points NPD revealed today. During iPad's first 60 days, half of purchasers were existing Mac owners; the number later dropped to 45 percent. By comparison, 53 percent were Windows PC owners. Among U.S. households, 11 percent have Macs and 75 percent Windows PCs, according to NPD. Data cited from the NPD study is for the United States

Mac or Windows PC cannibalization would make a great headline, and it's one way to interpret the data. But there's another way: Early iPad adopters appear to be early tech adopters in general. For example, 38 percent of iPad buyers own an iPhone and 24 percent displaced a planned e-book reader purchase. Baker said that most iPad buyers are making "incremental" -- adding more technology devices -- purchases rather than replacing something they already have or would upgrade (e.g., Mac or PC).

In a blog post, Baker said that NPD divided iPad buyers into two groups -- early adopters who purchased within the first 60 days and everyone else. He writes:

Almost 80 percent of early adopters were very satisfied with their iPad versus 65 percent of those who bought it after launch. What makes those numbers so intriguing is that they feed into some very interesting usage numbers. Early adopters are now using their iPads for more than 18 hours/week, and for almost one-third of them that time is increasing.

Some interesting stats about early adopters compared to everyone else:

  • "38 percent more likely to be reading e-books"
  • "44 percent more likely to watch YouTube videos"
  • "50 percent more likely to watch movies"
  • "60 percent more likely to watch TV shows"

More generally, "20 percent of users' time with the iPad was spent with it in bed," Baker blogged. "It is obvious that the iPad form factor makes people feel warm and cuddly." That, I will add, is something competitors had better get. People aren't buying iPad for features (its analytical appeal) but high emotional quotient.

Baker also identified U.S. consumers' favorite features:

  • Portability
  • WiFi easiness
  • e-book reading
  • Applications availability

Baker expressed something else quite interesting when referring to the aforementioned usage scenarios and also reading in bed: "That type of iPad usage behavior is a dagger at the heart of the usage model for netbooks and secondary notebook computers." Oh, really now? So iPad is cannibalizing or will cannibalize sales of something after all.

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