iPad and the Mobile Computer: Will the iPad Boost Desktop Sales?

Apple told us yesterday that the iPad is not meant to be a replacement for either your iPhone or your Mac, but rather to fill a niche in between them. One result of this placement may be a resurgence in desktop Mac sales.

For a long time now desktops have been in decline, both in the overall computer industry and for Apple. Laptops have become much more powerful and have dropped in price significantly over the past few years. Combined with a laptop’s convenience in terms of mobility, this has driven laptops to the forefront of the computing industry. In fact it is clear that small size combined with small price is a sweet spot for many consumers, which explains the explosion in sales of netbooks.

What Apple has done with the iPad is create a product that is going to compete in large part with netbooks, but will fall short of giving you a complete computing experience. As such Apple expects us to continue buying Macs, while buying an iPad to complement them. If this strategy works, the result in terms of buying strategy for Mac users might change significantly for the laptop versus desktop question.

Let’s take the situation before today. If you were looking to buy a new Mac, the $1,200 MacBook Pro was probably your sweet spot in terms of portability, price and power. Starting yesterday, however, the math could look very different. The best choice from Apple for a mobile device may now be an iPad given it’s light weight and user experience. By itself it won’t match the capabilities of an entry-level MacBook Pro, but if you combine it with a Mac Mini, for example, you suddenly have two devices that probably match the capabilities of a MacBook Pro. And the price? Well, $500 for the iPad plus $600 for the Mac Mini is actually less expensive than a Macbook Pro.

This works as you move further up the market as well, would you rather have a $2,000 MacBook Pro or a $600 iPad combined with a $1500 iMac? The iMac gives you a more powerful and expandable computing platform, while the iPad might be able to fill your mobile computing needs. I don’t think the decision is cut and dry — there is value in having a singe device for all your computing needs — but it is certainly worth thinking about. I know that I’ll be considering the iPad plus Desktop route when the time comes to upgrade my Mac.

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