To PC or Not to PC

Is the iPad a personal computer? Interesting debate going on at Asymco, but it doesn’t really matter. The iPad is a competitor to portable PCs, having effectively gutted the netbook market since its introduction in 2010. This chart from Fortune tells the story.


In other words, if you count the iPad as a PC, then Apple just became the world’s Number One computer maker. That’s a long, hard slog from the Ugly Times in the mid-90s, when Apple was nearing bankruptcy and Microsoft was selling a clearly-superios operating system.

But if you don’t count the iPad as a PC, it really doesn’t matter. Consumers dropped zero-margin netbooks from Acer, HP, Dell, and the rest, to buy high-margin iPads from Apple. Nearly two years into (yet another) Apple-redefined market, there is still no clear competitor. For example: How many zero-margin Kindle Fires did Amazon sell last quarter? Amazon ain’t saying. Wall Street thinks Apple sold between 11 million and 18 million iPads during that time.

If I had to guess, Apple’s biggest-selling version is the 32GB iPad with 3G — by a plurality, not a majority, share of sales. It retails for $729. At a guestimate 35% margin, that adds up to…

…lot of darn dollars.

Is the iPad a PC? Well, if you define “personal computer” to mean “a race-to-the-bottom device which generates very tiny profits,” then, no, the iPad is most certainly not a PC.


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