3 reasons why and how we’ll see an Apple netbook soon

26 Comments

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.

26 Comments

commentator09

My thought for Steve Jobs : Create it! … Dare to try!

as for netbook, use similar nVidia ION platform with Atom single/dual-core.
afterall SONY dare to offer invalid netbook (overly-genius, who combine Atom with “performance-hog” Vista) at eyecandy casing&form, with premium price.
Lenovo which own “apple previous enemy, IBM”, also begin to offer Lenovo YOGA?

The best Apple try should be:
1. new eyecandy chassis, nvidia ION platform, regular
form of 11-12″ netbook.
Price near other manufacturer offering.
2. current polycarbonate chassis of Macbook, but
eyecandy colored, with 12″ LCD, with Atom or
lower-end intel chips. T1xxx/T2xxx/T3xxx/T4xxx.
lowest production cost for Apple to produce.
Price lower than recent PolyC Macbook
3. new eyecandy chassis, with form like SONY’s /
Lenovo’s offering. MacPocket or MacYOGA. Price can
comparable with Lenovo’s future offering.

For iPod offering, Apple truly excels. With many eyecandy design, that mostly can attract woman/girls.
Since Apple focused in design, woman market is huge enough. They focused on ‘only sufficient performance ‘ but more on color/design.

Also by offering eyecandy colored Polycarbonate with lower specs, can also penetrate this market well enough.

Many girls, buy SONY or other nice PC design laptop because its shiny/colorful design! e.g. shiny PINK color.
Hard to see girls attracted to buy BLACK Thinkpad, even the performance is high.
The meant, not every person look the aluminium shine looks. Better Apple begin to colorize it. Like beautiful iPOD.

By creating Netbook product doesnt meant Apple lost will lost its elegance/image.
But more than, give the netbook market, Apple touch.
Slightly expensive but more interesting, and the more important, OSX for mass!

Billiam

Just some food for thought:

1) Apple will not enter the “low end” Netbook market, because they would have to spend quite a bit of money on R&D and then end up only making a small profit on each one sold. It would not be financially viable for them to do that.

2) For a Mac fan to get an acceptable OSX Netbook, they can simply do a bit of Googling, get an existing Netbook (Dell Mini 9 or other such), and with a little bit of tweaking, install a copy of OSX. For Apple, this means that they still make a profit that could be associated with selling an Apple Netbook, but without the cost of R&D. Of course software piracy cuts into those profits, but there are still going to be plenty of people that are willing to bend the EULA, but will still buy a valid retail copy of OSX. This is basically free money for Apple.

3) I think that the most likely next “Apple toy” will be a new generation of the MacBook Air line. They will probably have an optional touch screen, as well as 10- or 12-inch models that will be able to be put out at a price point that is under where the current MacBook line sits, but still above the lower-end Netbooks. This would not take as much R&D, and it builds on an already existing product line. People will buy this “Netbook” for several reasons: because it will have features that put this device a step above the “lower end” Netbook models that are currently out there; and of course because there are people that will buy it because of the fruit on the cover.

Of course this is all just speculaton… Until I’m proven right…

tal

I so agree. BUT … the new 8.9″-10″ netbook from Apple will also take the netbook form into the Gigabyte m912 and Fujitsu p1630/20/10 land. Meaning a swivel touch screen. 850$ will be the magic price and I suspect it eating at least 20% of the netbook market.

Alexnee

I am a Chinese fan of apple laptop.
There is thousands fans in Chinese like me,however,the price is too high for most of them, I bet if the price is around $800,I could sell out at least 500pcs per day.

Steve

I dont think separate graphics would really matter in this market segment. If it’s only being used for light internet usage and what not..

Who knows what processors are coming up though.. perhaps intel will copy nVidia’s chip idea with both a cpu and gpu in one?

I think Apple would really have to make a product that stood out and grabbed consumers by the nuts.. Aesthetics is right up their gully.

If they stuck to the basics and used ideas generated by the MBA’s flaws they could have a winner. As for price: Apple is known for their outrageous pricing. If Asus and HP etc. are producing netbooks at sub $500, i’m sure Apple could work some magic for $800??

Who knows.. maybe the netbook isn’t their scene? Being late entrants, they could be seen as copy cats.

Glenn

Seems possible, and certainly something that would sell very well. I don’t think you’re considering something like this would have on Apple’s margins though, which would obviously suffer from selling something lower priced like this, which might be why, as per Apple usual, it won’t exactly be a low priced “netbook”.

The netbook space is rife with copycats, and could certainly use an Apple target to show them where to go next. Thinner than 1″ thick of course. Nice build quality. Flash SSD drive of course. Nice keyboard, edge to edge with that pesky right shift key full sized.

If they can figure out how to have a narrow bezel around the screen, they could even fit an 11″ display like the Sony TT in a form factor like the typical 10″ netbook from other manufacturers.

Agree they won’t be going smaller than 10″, since they just want to be in this space, not push the prices down. Also agree you might see them push the resolutions up a bit like the HP mininote.

Not sure what else they could do to really make it that special, but 802.11n rather than g is something you’d expect. I doubt the rumor about the separate graphics though…

Steve

Not a fan of apple myself but here’s mu two cents.

9-10″ Apple netbook carbon fibre lid with aluminium inside (palm rest, accents etc.). $8-900. Single core Atom, minimum specs to run OS X. I think apple would benefit greatly and perhaps stealthe market share if it’s done properly.

MBA was a flop.

2manydjs

Students have always been an important target for the MacBook’s (and previously iBook’s). My impression is that Apple has been reigning in this market for the last years in the US and have been doing very well in Europe as well. I haven’t noticed a switch among students away from the MacBook towards the netbook yet in Europe (Amsterdam), how is this in the US? I feel that a switch in this market might be a strong incentive for Apple to get into the business of netbooks. My impression is that Apple users with a bigger budget don’t mind paying for the MBA.

TheDude

The MacBook has traditionally been the gateway drug of choice for OS X. I could definitely see them adding a low end tablet/netbook that would introduce more people to OS X.

PetieG

w/ the Dock, just move it to the right or left side. I don’t know why anybody hasn’t caught onto this yet. On most LCDs today (desktops included), it’s wider than it is taller, so why not just take advantage of that and put your Dock on the left or right side. It’s more out of the way for me, i don’t have to hide it, and i make it a little smaller anyway but magnify it. On a 10″ i may be more apt to hide it, but I think you should give it a try on the right side on your WindOSX — I even do it on my MBP as i think logically makes sense. It may take a week or so to get used to it, but once you do it you won’t even notice it. Hell, LaunchBar/QuickSilver or now just Spotlight all serve as a quick ‘n easy app/dock launcher so who cares about the Dock except for running instances of doc’s, sessions, etc…

NoApple4Me

Good idea? Just write some crap about Apple and get your story in Techmeme. This is stupid.

Weylund

Sadly, that’s probably the best way to go. I would give serious thought to buying an Apple netbook, but only if it was competitively priced.

And that’s never, never going to happen.

Regular Reader

Kevin – Once again you provide us with a unique analysis based on critical thinking that is all too rare in this “soundbite” world. JKONTHERUN was great before you joined. You take it to another level. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

Luscious

If you really want a netbook experience with the Mac just pick up a copy of OSX for $120, load it onto a mininote and happily dual boot. It will look good on the 1280 screen. Even with the price of the mininote at $629, you’re getting a mac and a pc laptop in one for $749. Great deal!

ben

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

Ummm, so the HP Mininote, the Lenovo S10, the ASUS 1000H and 901, the MSI Wind, etc aren’t netbooks? What?

Netbooks are budget ultraportables. We’ve already had $800 netbooks (I think you could spec the Mininote for that price).

“No classical netbook but a MacBook Air with the dual core Atom A330 and 2 GB of RAM.”

The dual core Atom is about twice as power-hungry as the single core. Apple is too battery life-conscience to do that.

@turn.self.off

I’m more inclined to agree with your vision of an Apple “netbook”. I really see them releasing a jumbo iPhone before an competitively-affordable, full-featured notebook.

turn.self.off

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.

Robt

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.

Christoph

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.

Jed

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

Rodfather

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.

SiteCharts

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.

ArchiMark

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….

Aerial

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

BBusyB

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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