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iPad Cannibalizing Half of Best Buy's Laptop Sales?

Jon Fortt|Tech Correspondent

Is Apple's iPad cannibalizing up to half of Best Buy's laptop units? That's been the word on the web today, citing a story in the Wall Street Journal. The writer of that story says Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn told him iPad sales were snatching away up to 50% of laptop sales.

Problem is, that cannibalization story just numerically doesn't make any sense. Best Buy just sells too many laptops for the iPad to be taking away half of them. And when I checked it with Best Buy, they said the story is flat-out wrong.

Here's what Best Buy tells me: Dunn said there's some replacement of low-end netbooks by iPads, but Best Buy doesn't yet know how much.

"What Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said was that we had no firm numbers, but that we speculated there was some replacement of netbooks by iPads going on," said spokeswoman Paula Baldwin. "We did not provide specifics because we do not presently have the hard numbers on which to base those specifics."

Netbooks are low-end laptops, a niche within the laptop market. It makes sense that the iPad would be hurting netbook sales, because that's what Steve Jobs designed it to do - rather than build a low-margin netbook, Jobs went with a high-margin tablet.

Still, the underlying question here is an interesting one. Are tablets going to threaten laptop sales? If so, that's bad for Intel and Microsoft , since the first two major tablets out of the gate, the iPad and Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab, use ARM-based processors and operating systems made by Apple and Google .

But it's just too soon to say whether the rise of tablets is causing laptops to fall. It could just be the high unemployment rate, or the fact that consumers are saving more. We'll have to see sales results from the all-important holiday quarter to know for sure.

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