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Tablets eating Netbooks? A Microsoft GM says yes

In an interview with, a Microsoft general manager says Netbook sales are being threatened by tablets, but that she views these as secondary devices to traditional computers.

Is the spread of tablet computers eating into the Netbook business? In an interview this week with, Microsoft general manager for Windows product management Gavriella Schuster said that, yes, that is "definitely" the case.

How much that has cut into Microsoft's Windows licensing may be the bigger question.

Hewlett-Packard's Slate 500
Hewlett-Packard's Slate 500 will be in the first crop of Windows 7 tablets, a form factor that is reportedly eating into Netbook sales. HP

The topic had come up during the interview where Schuster had a Netbook in front of her. When asked whether such a device was being threatened by tablets--many of which are being launched in the course of the next year, Schuster said "these are definitely getting cannibalized." Schuster then added that she considers Netbooks and tablets to be a secondary device on top of a regular computer--an area where Microsoft dominates in OS market share.

The cannibalization of more traditional laptops by smaller form factor devices has been a hot-button topic since Netbooks became a common offering by hardware makers.

In an interview with Best Buy's CEO Brian Dunn in September, The Wall Street Journal had Dunn making--and later clarifying--a statement about the iPad making deep cuts into the sales of laptop PCs in Best Buy's retail stores. Though even in the updated statement, the company had not declared the basic premise of cannibalization to be untrue.

This issue is of special interest to Microsoft's place as a software provider for new PCs, as the company has worked hard to get XP, and later Windows 7 onto Netbooks. While Windows 7 tablets, such as the upcoming HP Slate 500 begin arriving later this month, others will be shipping with operating systems from Google and HP-owned Palm.