Trading Places: Will Notebooks Cannibalize Tablet Sales?
Tablets aren’t cannibalizing notebooks; they’re converging with them. And fears that the post-PC era will see sales of PCs and notebooks eaten away by the iPad and its ilk are more than a bit overblown.
That’s the theory put forth by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi in a rebuttal to the conventional wisdom of the Street, which holds that we are in a post-PC world in which tablet sales are cannibalizing those of PCs.
Sacconaghi sees the evolution of Apple’s MacBook Air and its growing synergies with the iPad (instant on, slim profile and multitouch support) as the harbinger of a broader convergence between the notebook and tablet form factors. Which isn’t an unreasonable way of looking at things, given current industry trends. As solid-state storage prices decrease, more OEMs will begin using them in their devices. Same thing with the low-power/high-performance processors that make devices like the iPad possible. Add to this the proliferation of mobile app stores and the debut of desktop counterparts like the Mac App Store and, well, you see where this is all heading.
“The iPad is getting more powerful while the MacBook Air is getting lighter, and the distinction between the two is blurring,” Sacconaghi argues. “In fact, we expect the distinction to blur across notebooks as a whole … In the next two to three years, we believe OEMs will offer notebooks at the weight of the original iPad with touchscreen and integrated keypad capability for under $1,000.”
And the debut of that converged, ultraportable tablet/notebook could have an unexpected result.
Says Sacconaghi, “Ironically, availability of such notebook devices might undermine tablet sales, rather than vice versa.”
In other words, the cannibalized becomes the cannibal. And in the end, it turns out that the post-PC era doesn’t mean that the PC is dead, but rather that it’s been born anew as a converged device — an ultrathin, touch-sensitive notebook.