Laptop Sales Sapped by Tablet Frenzy

The boom in laptop computer sales is losing some steam, and not only because of a still-sluggish economy. Some shoppers are spending their money on Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPad tablet rather than the low-priced laptops that have fueled sales in recent years.

One is Vanessa Cole, a 31-year-old sales representative in Detroit, whose husband bought her an iPad as a gift in April. She had considered getting a low-priced laptop but said she prefers the iPad “for the bigger screen and apps” even though the tablet cost more at $499.

Analysts expect Apple to sell 11 million to 12 million iPads this year, more than double many initial estimates, and reach 20 million next year. Samsung Electronics Inc., Dell Inc. (DELL) and other companies are racing to introduce their own tablets.

The tablet frenzy contrasts with some indicators for laptops. NPD Group estimates that laptop unit sales in U.S. retail channels rose 12.3 percent in the first eight months of the year—well below 30 percent growth of the year-earlier-period—and were down one percent in July and August, the peak of the important back-to-school shopping season.

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