Will netbook growth hurt Apple's Macbook sales?

For a company like Apple, the colorful new iPod Nanos might be the hot product this quarter but laptop computers remain the financial bread and butter. Now, there's concern that there's trouble ahead for the notebook market.

For a company like Apple, the colorful new iPod Nanos might be the hot product this quarter but laptop computers remain the financial bread and butter. Now, there's concern that there's trouble ahead for the notebook market.

ThinkPanmure analyst Vijay Rakesh thinks there could be a slowdown on the horizon as sales of the smaller, ultraportable netbooks have started to gain some speed. The upshot: Netbooks are stealing share from laptops.  In a report, he trimmed estimates for  Apple, noting that the expected Macbook growth of 15-19 percent for the quarter could be high. He maintained a buy rating but lowered estimates for the fourth quarter, which ends on Sept. 30, as well as the first quarter, which ends Dec. 31. He notes, in his report:

Since the July-August timeframe the Macbook is completely out of the "top 5 Notebook category" at Amazon for the last three weeks straight, with netbooks dominating all the top 5. We believe this to be the effects of a more price-conscious consumer and a global slowdown... Our checks on AAPL indicate that while Mac Desktops and 3G iPhone sales have been doing well, the notebook market could be impacted in the peak back-to-school season with the entry of netbooks from Asustek, Acer, MSI, and DELL.

For Apple, estimates for the fourth quarter were lowered from $7.9 billion or $1.03 per share to $7.8 billion or 95 cents. For the first quarter, estimates were lowered from $11.5 billion, or $1.80 per share, to $10.8 billion, or $1.32.

Rakesh also trimmed estimates for Intel, though the netbook-notebook impact is a bit less obvious. Intel's Atom chip is what powers the netbook, so the company isn't left completely out in the cold. But Rakesh notes that Atom processors sell at much lower price points and carry thinner gross margins. Still, in an earnings call last quarter, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said he doesn't see the netbook market as cannibalizing notebook sales.

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