On September 16, 2010 Brian Dunn, the CEO of Best Buy, cited “tablet cannibalism” when he told the Wall Street Journal that the iPad was cutting laptop sales in half.  While he later retracted that statement, it raised an interesting question: Exactly how is the sale of the iPad affecting the rest of the market?

Although Dunn retracted his statement, the sale of the iPad does seem to have an effect on the slowing growth of notebook sales.  Tablets are gaining popularity and with the advent of tablets other than the iPad, the tablet market will only continue to grow, further impacting the sales of notebooks and netbooks.  So far, the iPad has mostly affected PC sales, not Macs, so it will be interesting to see how the sale of other tablets will affect the two.  If would-be PC buyers are buying iPads instead of laptops, they are more likely to buy Windows-based tablets than laptops when both are readily available.

Although tablets and laptops boast many of the same functionalities, they are different in many ways. For example:

  • Tablets are more portable
  • Tablets have touchscreens, making it easier to edit images, and scroll through pages
  • Tablets don’t have a traditional keyboard, which can cause difficulties for those who aren’t accustomed to touchscreens
  • Laptops generally have more compatible software and applications, although the options for tablets are growing quickly

All of these factors are things that consumers are likely considering in their purchase decisions. Many people are unlikely to forfeit the familiarity of laptops for the new technology, while, for some the convenience of tablets will outweigh their desire to hold on to that which they are accustomed to.

Despite the potential for consumer resistance, the uses for iPads have been expanding in consumer’s everyday lives. Some restaurants, for instance, are implementing the use of iPads instead of traditional paper menus.  The interactivity makes them a great asset for restaurants with complex menus or wine lists.  In addition to restaurants, if someone goes into the Apple store for an iPod or any other Apple device, they will be checked out on an iPad.  This trend is likely to grow, as the convenience of iPads becomes more apparent to the common consumer.

Therefore, although we may not have experienced “tablet cannibalism” just yet, it is likely on its way.

Further reading: Wired