52 Comments

Summary:

The Register’s Tony Smith notes in a report that the last 12 months have been good for netbook makers, who cumulatively shipped 30.2 million of the mini laptops in that period. According to market watcher Strategy Analytics, that’s 79 percent more than they moved in 2008 […]

netbookknockoff_thumb

The Register’s Tony Smith notes in a report that the last 12 months have been good for netbook makers, who cumulatively shipped 30.2 million of the mini laptops in that period. According to market watcher Strategy Analytics, that’s 79 percent more than they moved in 2008 and amounts to 50-60 percent of total portable PCs shipped and around 17-20 percent of PCs sold overall.

The researcher also forecasts further growth this year as netbook chips deliver more performance and ARM licensees take on Intel’s dominant Atom platform.

The iPad notwithstanding, I’m still convinced that Apple has fumbled the ball in not offering a netbook. If it can sell an iPad for $500, I deduce that a netbook with a clamshell form factor, a real keyboard and trackpad, plus ideally a low-powered Intel Core CPU, decent connectivity, and capability to run the real Mac OS, should be eminently possible at an entry-level price of $600-$650 — at which I contend it would be a strong seller. It’d certainly be a machine that would appeal to me much more than the iPad does in its announced configuration.

Chinese Knockoffs

A knockoff outfit in China is showing the way, having released a tantalizing example of the potential for a truly appealing Apple netbook, if Apple were inclined to play ball. The Chinese tech industry-watching blog M.I.C (ie: “Made-In-China”) has posted a review of what it calls “the ultimate MacBook Air knockoff” — the best MacBook Air wannabe ever, featuring a real glowing Apple logo and a form factor almost as thin as the real MBA — which M.I.C. thinks is possibly the most beautiful product the Chinese knockoff makers have ever copied. I’m inclined to agree.

Of course it’s not really a Mac, and OS X is not supported. It is a PC netbook in ersatz Mac clothing, powered by the latest version of the ubiquitous 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 CPU with 1GB of RAM (upgradable to 2GB RAM at a modest additional cost of $180 RMB), a 160GB hard drive, a 13.3-inch (1280 x 800) LED-backlit display and a swappable 4-cell battery, plus 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and, get this — selling for only $1,900 RMB (about $280). To say it’s much more affordable than Apple’s real MacBook Air is an extreme understatement.

The M.I.C. reviewers say typing is a pleasure on the MBA knockoff’s full-sized keyboard, and there’s a spacious trackpad too, although it doesn’t support multitouch technology.

Connectivity-wise, the knockoff netbook is somewhat less challenged than a real MacBook Air, with two USB 2.0 ports rather than the MBA’s one, a mini-HDMI port, and one headphone jack, but you also get an Ethernet port and a SD-card slot — not bad at all for a $280 laptop. There’s also a webcam along with an infrared detector beside it.

The downside cited is noise, with the fan reportedly running almost nonstop during basic operation, which would be tiresome, especially if you’re fan noise-averse like me.

As far as I can tell, these units aren’t likely to ever make it to North America as it’s a given that Apple Legal would have a lot to say about it. But if they were available, I don’t think I could resist. It looks like a great little inexpensive solution for taking on the road, and possibly running Ubuntu or Puppy Linux on instead of Windows.

How about you? Would a machine like this appeal? More pointedly, don’t you wish Apple would build a netbook Mac like this?

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Why race to the bottom? What folks fail to see is that this is actually helping Apple dominate the higher end market. People who want cheap, get cheap. People who want quality, and are willing to pay for it, are choosing Apple. Who dominates the 1000+ market? There’s a lot of profit up there.

    1. You nailed it. Too bad the author of this post is way off base thinking, “fumbled the ball in not offering a netbook”.

      Have a look at AAPL 10Q. Which one? Pick one. They’re all the same – stellar!

      Given Apple and SJ’s performance (see Times CEO of the decade), I’ll put my money on AAPL and not some opinionated blogger.

      Cheers!

  2. Netbook sales exploded, but how many of those netbooks were purchased instead of a regular laptop? PC manufacturer margins are already thin. Selling $250 computers only makes them thinner.

  3. Yes, a machine like this is apealing, but until I can justify me spending over $1000 on a laptop that performs just as well as my two HP minis that I have at home RUNNING Mac OS X 10.6, I will stick to that. lol

    1. Please elaborate on the model and configuration of you HP minis. Thank you.

  4. Yeah, what margin can there be on a $250 netbook? Apple is just not in that business. They make more on an iPhone than they would make on two netbooks, so why bother?

    HP and Dell would love to have Apple’s margins, that’s for sure.

  5. “More pointedly, don’t you wish Apple would build a netbook Mac like this?”

    To be honest? Not particularly, at least not personally. I have a 13″ MacBook Pro that serves me fine and fits in my bag comfortably, so I don’t really need a 10″ computer that can’t do what I might need it to (though the MacBook Air knockoff mentioned here is the full 13″). For times where I don’t want or need to take my MBP with me, I have an iPhone, which can handle the typical mobile web/email access I need. If I still want something else, I can bring something more specialized. For me, a netbook isn’t necessary.

    That said, I can understand why Apple is hesitant to release a netbook, considering the study last June that indicated that a high proportion of netbook users are unsatisfied with their purchase and that this might stem from the fact that most (6 out of 10) consumers asked admitted that they thought netbooks were the same thing as notebooks before purchasing the former. Apple and Steve Jobs are concerned with the company’s image, as imperfect as it is, and Jobs has made clear his aversion to selling “incomplete” devices (his term, if I’m remembering correctly) that would invite such dissatisfaction. The iPad, for better or worse (I’m firmly in the middle as someone who thinks it’s interesting but isn’t going to buy one), will be as close to a netbook as Apple gets, I think.

  6. “How about you? Would a machine like this appeal? More pointedly, don’t you wish Apple would build a netbook Mac like this?”

    No.

  7. Apple won’t do it because it would kill margins. I bought a Dell Mini 10v and that’s my Mac netbook. Has been for a while.

  8. “How about you? Would a machine like this appeal? More pointedly, don’t you wish Apple would build a netbook Mac like this?”
    Like Stefano – NO =)

  9. Apple sells a netbook – it’s called the MacBook Air. The only difference is that Apple sells the smaller size and lower power=longer battery life as premium features rather than excuses to drop the price into the bargain bin range.

    If what you actually want is just a really cheap laptop then move along, Apple doesn’t do cheap.

  10. In Steve Jobs words “we can’t make a sub $500 computer that doesn’t suck” or something along those lines. If you are willing to sacrifice quality for a lower price… apparently windows and the hardware that tends to run it is made just for you. That’s all netbooks are… I’ve used them and performance is pitiful… Apple DOESNT WANT to be in that kind of a market, and I am one of their customers because of their high standards.

    I never had read a whole lot on this site before, but with this article you’ve lost any credibility as an true “Apple Blog” in my book.

Comments have been disabled for this post