Is Apple’s iPad killing off netbooks?

Is Apple’s slick and unstoppable iPad slowly killing off netbook sales? Well, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty seems to think so.

Indeed, according to Huberty, netbook sales peaked in the summer of 2009 at a staggering 641% year-over-year growth rate.

“[But sales] fell off a cliff in January and shrank again in April — [apparently] collateral damage…from the January introduction and April launch of the iPad,” explained Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt.

“In support of her theory, Huberty offers a Morgan Stanley/Alphawise survey conducted in March that found that 44% of US consumers who were planning to buy an iPad said that they were buying it instead of a netbook or notebook computer.”

However, NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker told ComputerWorld it was “way too early” to definitively conclude that Apple’s iPad had negatively affected netbook sales.

“Could there be some cannibalization of netbook sales by the iPad? Sure. But it’s too soon to tell. Certainly the growth rate is coming down – but that’s logical,” opined Baker.

“In 2009, netbook sales were a growth story against nothing (in the year before). So it’s really a matter of where we are in the development of the product. I’d say it’s very difficult at this stage to attribute declining growth of netbooks to the iPad.”