Apple losing sales to netbooks?

The Macalope has seen this Retrevo survey linked to a number of places and has some real questions about it.

First of all, Retrevo is not a research firm like Gartner. They’re a conduit to online sales. Do they get a cut of the sales from affiliate fees? The Macalope can’t tell from their web site.

Second, it’s interesting to note that one of their partners is HP, maker of netbooks. Maybe Apple is a partner too and they’re just not listed. Doubtful, but possible. HP is also specifically mentioned in the press release as one of the low-cost netbook alternatives to a MacBook. As a matter of fact, they’re the only other laptop vender mentioned. Hmm.

Third, what “trend” does their latest press release show? The title of their press release is:

Retrevo Survey Says Apple Loses Back-to-School Laptop Shoppers to Netbook & PC

Yet the press release says nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, it says very little.

Retrevo, the consumer electronics marketplace, released today a new Gadgetology study indicating 34% of students buying laptops are planning on purchasing small, lightweight netbooks. Another 49% are buying full-sized PC laptops. The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Assuming the second number excludes Macs, 34 + 49 = 83. Does that mean 17% of those surveyed are buying Mac laptops? What was Apple’s market share last year? How many sales or how much market share has Apple supposedly “lost” compared to last year?

They don’t provide that data. They just go on to castigate Apple for not having a low-cost laptop. It’s certainly possibly that netbooks are stealing the low end of the market where Apple doesn’t compete and it’s possible they’re growing that end of the market, but there’s absolutely nothing in their press release that show that Apple is losing sales to netbooks.

The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Uh, yeah. Apple has a market share below 10 percent. Of course the majority of even student laptop shoppers aren’t considering them.

Fourth, is an online sample size of 300 really statistically valid? That seems awfully low to the pointy one, but he’s no statistician.

This just seems very dubious.

ADDED: As TC points out in comments, this is only going to tell you something about what visitors to their site think (the survey was only of site visitors). And isn’t that an important bit of selection bias right there? What Retrevo does is pull together the prices from various online outlets. Their visitors are already self-defined as low-cost shoppers. They’re trying to find the lowest price. Don’t most Macs get sold through Apple’s online store and retail outlets anyway? How many people are ever going to visit Retrevo with the thought of buying a Mac?

MORE: Look at their “value map” for Apple laptops. Only three – the three cheapest – rate a “fair value”. All the others are rated “low value”. Ask yourself if that’s a fair assessment of Apple laptops. Again, it certainly appears that people who visit Retrevo’s site have some pre-conceived ideas about Apple’s laptop offerings. To these people low price = good value. To the Macalope, that describes a group that would rarely buy an Apple laptop in the first place.

11 thoughts on “Apple losing sales to netbooks?”

  1. I *am* a statistician. Well, a social scientist. Still, I do statistics. Gobs of them. Daily. Like, for a living. More importantly, I know survey methodology. Surveys are our bread and butter.

    300 visitors to one website isn’t a great sample – it can only tell you about what visitors to that website think, not what “students” in general think.

  2. Reality: Microsoft getting GORED by cheapskate netbook buyers (since many netbooks run LINUX and the rest use a deeply discounted version of XP). Apple maybe losing a FEW sales. Apple selling tons of iPhones and iTouches, which perform many netbook functions (Surfing) and fit in your shirt pocket.

    The Headline: OMG! Beleagured Apple getting TROUNCED as whole universities switch over to netbooks! Steve Ballmer laughing maniacally and rubbing his fleshy palms together.

  3. Major U.S. Windows PC companies, Windows PC retailers and Microsoft are losing revenue to netbooks. Apple, meanwhile, is raking in profits without the need for netbooks. How’s that for some hot info.

    It doesn’t matter how many netbooks companies are selling to students, the profit margins are so low that it’s crippling the Windows PC industry as a whole. All their high-end computers are collecting dust, helped along by Microsoft’s buy cheaply as possible as long as it’s powered by Windows campaign.

  4. What’s crazy about this is we’ve been seeing steady gains—sometimes surprisingly LARGE ones—in Apple’s marketshare in higher education over the past few years. So their “results” don’t even jibe with the information we’ve been getting from larger, more established research firms.

  5. Isn’t this the kind of thing they all proclaimed around about the time of the iPod introduction… then all were stunned how those with Windows machines – hence now owning iPods actually took a serious look at Apple Macs… and Mac sales increased, gaining market share?

    Me wonders how the iPhone will help cascade sales into increased market share over the next few years as those whom have never taken a real close look at a Mac, now have iPhones and the epiphany of Apple Quality and Experience sinks-in.

  6. “The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.”

    That should more properly read: “The majority of student laptop shoppers who come to our website seeking cheap PCs and decide to take our lame survey will not consider buying a Mac.”

  7. “Fourth, is an online sample size of 300 really statistically valid? That seems awfully low to the pointy one, but he’s no statistician.”

    Actually 300 beats 10,000. I saw it in a movie!

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