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I mentioned this crazy scheme in our last podcast, but now that more blurry pics of an anticipated MacBook Pro refresh have resurfaced, it’s a good time to rehash. I’ve been wondering if and how Apple will get into the netbook market. With millions of netbooks […]

Wind_os_xI mentioned this crazy scheme in our last podcast, but now that more blurry pics of an anticipated MacBook Pro refresh have resurfaced, it’s a good time to rehash. I’ve been wondering if and how Apple will get into the netbook market. With millions of netbooks selling this year, I don’t think it’s a market they can afford to ignore. Others like HP, Dell and Lenovo agree or they wouldn’t have jumped in with low-priced, small notebook computers. But Apple has a far more limited product line than the PC manufacturers, so how can they fit another device in the mix? They can’t, but they still will. Here’s why I think so and how I expect they’ll do it.

1. There are plenty of various Photoshopped images of new MacBook Pros floating around out there. We can debate whether or not these are real or simply renderings of what folks would like to see, but one thing we can’t deny is that the current MacBook Pro is due for a refresh. Newer and more efficient CPU technologies are available for starters, plus it’s simply time. Apple keeps to a nearly predictable upgrade schedule and they’re overdue by historical standards. Nobody’s going out on a limb here by saying that the MacBook Pro line will be revamped soon…. and that’s key to the netbook strategy, so hold that thought.2. “Apple already has the MacBook Air and small, 13.3-inch MacBooks, so how can they add a netbook?” Glad you asked because I suspect the current MacBooks get absorbed into the Pro line. There are several differences between the current MacBooks and MacBook Pros, but one of the main differentiators is in the graphics department. The Pros have dedicated graphics, while the MacBooks (and the Air, for that matter) use integrated graphics. If HP can fit the NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS with 512 MB in their new 13.3-inch Pavilion, then you can bet that a new MacBook can handle it too. That’s why I think the MacBooks get added to the Pro line. Still with me?3. So if I’m correct up to now, there IS no more MacBook, right? That leaves the MacBook name wide open for a 10-inch MacBook, i.e.; the Apple netbook. Having used OS X on a seven-inch display and now a ten-inch one, I can’t see Apple going with anything smaller for the time being. To be honest, the experience can be a little challenging on the 1024×600 display of my MSI Wind. I have to auto-hide the dock for starters, something I never do on my 15-inch MacBook Pro. HP was able to cram a 1280×768 resolution in the 8.9-inch display of the Mini-note and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple go with the higher res in a 10-inch MacBook. Right off the bat, it would add another difference between an Apple netbook and the vast majority of the currently available competitors.Where does that leave the MacBook Air? Good question, but I think the Air was more of an attempt to test and learn about the market. I don’t see it going away just yet, but I’d be surprised to see if it gets more than one refresh. Folks that want to be mobile but don’t want to sacrifice too much from current Apple notebooks will continue to be happy with the Air and the manilla envelope it fits in.From a cost standpoint, my thought holds true to the $800 starting price point I mentioned in the past. Maybe that’s a pie-in the-sky idea and we see the new, smaller MacBook start at $1,000. The 13.3-inch unit will surely move up in price under this scenario, closer to a $1,500 price tag. One might ask why Apple would even consider selling a notebook at $800 to $1,000 when it might cut into sales of their higher priced notebooks that can run well north of $2,000. I’d argue that you’re making my point. Low-priced netbooks sales as a whole are growing far faster than Apple’s notebook line. We’re talking about a market that has barely existed for a year but will enjoy over 10 million sales. For basic mobile computing, netbooks offer 80% of the functionality of a full-featured notebook, but at $400 or so can be had for 20% of a high-end MacBook Pro.Let’s see what happens to the 13.3-inch MacBook. If it stays put in the current line, then I’m all wet behind the ears. But if it moves up to join the big boys in the Pro line, I think my days of struggling with WiFi support on OS X and my MSI Wind netbook are over.

  1. I have to say that if a New Mac netbook were to be introduced at that price, it could convince a lot of people who, while having no desire to switch to OSX completely are curious enough to buy one as a companion device.

    And while many would say that the Mac mini already does that, it is very limited in its utility at least to someone like me, who has not owned a desktop in 6 or 7 years.

    I’ve never been able to justify to myself paying full price for a Macbook / Macbook pro, as I’ll be spending a lot of time in windows for my work, and the prices in Europe for Apple products are ludicrous at times.

    On the other hand something reasonably cheap, that I could use a companion, would definitely peak my interest.

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  2. I really don´t like MacBooks. I hate the Apple Key. Just can´t get used to it.

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  3. Good analysis and some great ideas. The current MacBook supposedly being clad in aluminum next rev. does make room for a low cost net ‘book. Why not revive the 12″ form factor in white plastic?

    Make this the new “MacBook” and offer reduced features and low pricing to go with it $799 would be a great sweet spot.

    Aerial

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  4. While I think a MacNetBook would be great and probably sell like hotcakes if priced appropriately, what I’d really love to see and be willing to fork over some $’s for is an Apple equivalent to my Fujitsu P1610 design with some tweaks to OSX to have more tabletPC type functionality built-in to it….

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  5. An $800 “netbook”?
    A netbook is supposed to be sub-$400!

    Please don’t use the term netbook like Asus uses the EEE branding.

    Otherwise, I will sell you a netbook car.

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  6. I don’t see Apple using an Atom processor and going less than 12″. My guess is still a 12″ with Core2Duo. So not quite netbook, but subnotebook.

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  7. a $800 netbook .. would that make the ‘Mac Mini’ a Nettop ? NO it wouldn’t :)

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  8. Let’s consider another possibility:
    No classical netbook but a MacBook Air with the dual core Atom A330 and 2 GB of RAM. Sufficient computing power and memory for running OS X, a decently sized screen and keyboard, good battery and low power consumption. Now *that* would be mobile productivity. Plus it would be cheaper than the MBA.

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  9. I could definitely see this happening and with a price range of the new MacBook line being between $799 and $ 1199. I’d buy one in the upper end of that range.

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  10. hmm, im tempted to bet that if a new, smaller macbook comes out, that it will relate more to the iphone then the macbook (pro) of old.

    i think i have stated my toughts on this before, turn the consumers machines into something more of a media player with internet access (iphone + appletv) that also have some variant of iworks bundled.

    instant “netbook”.

    and if they make game development as easy as they have made iphone app development then they could be sitting on a goldmine comparable to xbox live arcade.

    think about it, easy access to itms, app store and the web, mobileme, simple office apps (at least compared to ms office and similar).

    apple is mother, apple is father, apple is your best friend.

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