5 reasons you won’t see a netbook unveiled at MacWorld

27 Comments

apple-logo1Apple netbook rumors swirl around every few weeks and with MacWorld breathing down our necks in just a few short days they are rearing their ugly head once again.  It is clear from all the constant netbook blathering that the Apple faithful want a netbook, a small, cheap Mac to haul around in an expensive case.

I hate to burst your bubble but we’re not going to see Steve Jobs anyone offer an Apple netbook at MacWorld.  Apple has stated over and over again they will not do one and here are five reasons you won’t see one at MacWorld:

  1. Apple can’t build one.  Now before you get your undies all twisted that’s not me talking, that’s Steve Jobs himself.  “We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk”.  One thing that all netbooks share is a very low price point so there you have it, Apple can’t make one.
  2. OS X deserves a better home.  Apple firmly believes that OS X is the best thing since sliced bread.  You’ve seen the “I’m a Mac” ads so you know that’s true.  There is no way that Apple is going to put OS X on anything cheap like a netbook.
  3. The iPhone is better than a netbook.  Apple has already told us that the iPhone gives us the “real Internet”.  There’s no way they are going to offer up the “fake-Internet” just to sell a “piece of junk”.
  4. Netbooks have small touchpads. You’ve seen the gigantic touchpads on all the new MacBooks and Pros.  Apple has seen the light and shown it to us and that is how we know that multi-touch is mandatory for a mobile computer.  Have you seen the tiny touchpads on netbooks?  No multi-touch, no Apple netbook.
  5. Apple is a firm believer in the “Charlie Brown” marketing philosophy.  This philosophy is not compatible with super cheap notebooks.  Apple knows that offering a cheap notebook just once would be the same as Lucy letting Charlie Brown kick the football…

27 Comments

Neoxeekhrobe

One reason due to which I believe that Apple SHOULD make a netbook are games and the App store.

There might be very good and productive apps for iPod Touch but I think the thing that made iPod Touch far more interesting are the games.

So the question if Apple can make a netbook or not, gets answered after you look at the netbook market and how it is flourishing. Why keep out of it when we know Apple can get away with a price others just can’t?(“We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk” can also mean that we know WE can get away with higher prices :).

And regarding Mac OS, how about we keep the iPod Touch software, replace the lower end Macbooks($999) with a convertible, smaller keyboard and small multitouch pad, bring the price of Air down(which is bound to happen – does this has to do any thing with the fall Apple netbook rumor?) and sell this convertible for say $799? I think accelerometer under 7-8″ screen with a keyboard and copy paste will click with more than many.

And the question, can you pocket this thing or not, If you can’t, you can always go for the iPod Touch/iPhone. BUT if you have a need for a smaller form factor but not that small(why are netbooks selling so good?, surely price can’t be the only reason – keyboard?) then an iPodTouch+convertibleNetbook is what you would go for.

Scott

@Oliver

I was thinking the same thing about my Mini 1000. Apple could take the basic design, bleach it stick an apple logo on the lid and throw a full version of OS X on it. The only thing I could think of to make it stand out is to have a dual core Atom. At 8 watts the form factor could handle the heat and it would make Apple stand out in the crowd of netbooks, charge $650 for it and you would have a line of people at the Apple store waiting to get one.

Baz

5. Apple is a firm believer in the “Charlie Brown” marketing philosophy.

Odd, I thought Apple was a believer in the “Dilbert” marketing philosophy: The Company will screw you given any opportunity, firm in the knowledge you’ll go back there tomorrow.

In earlier times, this was known as the “PT Barnum Strategy”: There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute.

Baz

@Oliver – HP, Dell and others have full-size notebooks that are priced not that far off the mid-range subnotebook/netbooks on offer – and yet they build these netbooks because they recognize that there is an increasingly large group of consumers who happily forego the bells and whistles that their larger products may offer in favour of improved portability and better-than-basic functionality.

Apple has no product that resides in the +/- $500 range that has such functionality, so the creation of such would be a significant drag on its fullsize notebooks.

While Apple’s computer division has enjoyed an uptick in market share since the release of Vista, its worldwide market share (computer/OS-wise), is still bordering on the insignificant. And the only way it can show a profit in this division to its shareholders is to attach a significant premium to its computers. And a $500 netbook would not give Apple that significant premium, unless they opted for the cheapest, least spec’d hardware. And that’s where Jobs says Apple can’t build a netbook without it being ‘a piece of junk’.

Yes, yes – “When we buy a Mac we’re buying a quality product, hence the premium” – but when Macs are now built with the same Intel-reliant parts as everyone else and are built for Apple by a division of ASUS (the creators of the EeePC), what you are primarily paying for is the OS and Apple’s past reputation.

Apple could build a $500 subnotebook/netbook. They just don’t want to.

banker

don’t count on Steve’s wording. He misled the press several times. “who cares about my last year’s gossip …”

Richard

I am thinking that an Apple “netbook” makes a lot of sense because if you think how the ipod, itouch and iphone have such tight integration with itunes and the apple store.

What an opportunity to sell small apps, games, music and movies to a new segment of the market, or even rent them.

Maybe in this market segment the end game is not the “netbook” price, but the ability to sell content. And the price of the “netbook” would be set at something like a lost-leader.

I believe in the US that Google and T-mobile are doing the same with the G1.

Oliver

@Richard — looking at my HP mini 2133, I could easily imagine a machine with similar styling from Apple. I have actually contemplated putting the apple sticker that came with my iPhone over the HP logo and carry it around in public to see if it attracts attention from the Mac crowd at Starbucks.

Richard

I am sure Apple can build a “netbook” for $500. It seems to me that Apple must buy-in components and manufacturing in the Far East to make their computers, ipods, and phone just like any other manufacturer. And still make a profit. We have seen that the numerous verisons of the current crop of “netbooks” all have very many common design features and probably components. I would imagine that “Economies of Scale” play a considerable factor here in keeping prices down, now and in the future.

I think the idea that it would be junk, and that OS X deserves a better place, is misplaced. It is (i) to do with how they package and design the product, (ii) I read somewhere that the iphone used a version of OS X, and that already a number of “netbooks” run OS X very well.

The iPhone is basically a phone, that is its primary function, the rest is secondary, and so say that it is a “netbook”, is over simplistic. They are different products sitting at different ends of the market.

The touchpads are a recent introduction and only appear on the laptops, not on the desktops, but the OS is the same. I think most people will accept this as not being possible given the form factor/ size constraints.

Apple has already moved into cheaper and innovative products – ipod, itouch, and iphone. What Apple could do is make a premium brand “netbook” with some of the best features of MacBook and the current best in class “netbooks”. This would be a winner I feel, allowing Apple users to buy a smaller light weight, cheaper computer with OS X. It would also be a new gateway product for current non-apple users.

These are the views of a Windows User thinking about trying a MacBook out

Boca

Apparently we may see a larger iPod touch appearing in 2009 that will have a 7 inch screen.

Would be an interesting tablet system, although at that size, I am sceptical that the system will be that fun to use.

I have always struggled with tablet systems for any serious work, and the existing iPod touch fills a nice void between instant web-access and doing real work. Still… Always open to new gadgets!

Oliver

@Baz — why does the HP Mini or Dell’s small laptop not take away the rationale for their larger and more expensive machines? The answer seems obvious: these small and underpowered machines don’t meet everyone’s need.

fraggo

When Apple releases something, it has to cause a stir. I don’t think that Apple could possibly blow people away with a netbook, it just isn’t happening. If they made something like the Nintendo DS except with the screen filling the whole surface, then it will get attention. If they do something average like make a netbook then they are just diluting their own brand.

Baz

A ‘netbook’ by Apple costing in the $500 range – with a fully functioning but perhaps ‘trimmed’ OS (no included iLife, for example)- would almost certainly gut sales to their traditional notebooks.

No threat then from the iPhone. Its merely a CDD (Content Delivery Device)to their iTunes and App Stores. Despite the fact its running a version of OS X, Apple has done everything it can to prevent it becoming as useful as a netbook – no landscape keyboard, no cut & paste, not even so much as a mini-Pages.

Jobs as been quoted as saying that netbooks are a nascent technology he sees no reason for Apple to get involved in. Time was when Apple was the King of nascent technology – leading rather than following (or worse, ignoring). This was, after all, the Company that gave us Newton.

But build a functioning, affordable subnotebook and the rationale for a $1800 Air (or a $1000 MacBook) might be hard for some to make.

GoodThings2Life

@Patrick…

No, because then they’d be dealing with a potential tablet/UMPC, lol.

@James…

I agree with your article completely. It’s great to speculate and spread rumors, but it’s just not gonna happen.

Oliver

Of course they are not going to release a netbook. But what about a small notebook? (e.g., who says small notebooks need to be $500 or less)

Rico

Netbooks sales, at least in the US, are up due to the low cost along with people looking more realistically at their technology needs in our current economy. It’s really an excellent time for netbooks as they meet the needs of the majority of users while delivering a low price point.

i just don’t know where Apple can really take the netbook concept while creating the typical premium Apple experience for users and profit margins themselves. They’ve teased us with the idea of an Apple netbook with the Air (a subnotebook) and the iPod Touch (an internet tablet). However, i don’t really see them releasing a true netbook for at least a couple of years. By then, we’ll see netbooks more efficient and powerful, much more diversity in the field, hopefully a rebounding economy, and possibly a collaboration between Apple and Intel as we saw with the Air.

miguelv

gee wiz, James… Youre bringing me down. I’m really hoping for one of these apple microbooks :)
I’m still keeping my fingers crossed…

jkkmobile

“multi-touch is mandatory for a mobile computer. Have you seen the tiny touchpads on netbooks? No multi-touch, no Apple netbook.”

All current Eee PCs have multi-touch pads…

Ken

“Apple already has a netbook; it’s called the Macbook Air. And no they aren’t planning to make a cheaper alternative to it. If you look at Apple design, all their laptops are equipped with no compromise, full size keyboard and oversized touchpads, for giving the user the best experience; a netbook cannot provide that at any price.”

While its great for what it does, I do not believe that I could honestly say that the Air is equipped with “no compromise”. Try, for instance, changing out the battery on an Air mid-flight.

And, I can say that my NC10, which is great at what it does, provides me with a wonderful user experience. No, its not an Air, but it only cost me 1/3 the price of an Air. And, it does not need to be sent back to the manufacturer or an authorized service center when the battery needs changing or replacement.

Unfortunately, all of these devices reflect the compromises that were made when they were designed, and I cannot think of many that truly pushed the envelope, although I personally find the ThinkPad X300 series to be a stand out. Perhaps the Air is Apple’s answer to ultra-mobile computing with a keyboard? Only time will tell.

–Ken

Erik

Heh– right before the October 2008 notebook even, Kevin did an article called, “3 Reasons why and how we’ll see an Apple netbook soon” that I didn’t really agree with at the time. It’s interesting to hear the other side.

ArchiMark

You’re right on, James…

Unfortunately, in this case, as it would be fun to have a little MacMiniBook, notice I didn’t use the ‘nb’ word… ;-)

Althought would really like to have an Apple version of my lil’ P1610… ;-)

VitaminCM

Devil’s Advocate:
I’m no Apple fanboy, but here are some counterpoints to consider.
1. I wouldn’t be so sure of that. It wasn’t that long ago that they “Couldn’t Make a Cell Phone”. An iPod Touch with a hard drive and a keyboard is probably better than half of the low-end netbooks out there.
2. Nobody seems to mind the scaled down OS on the iPhone.
3. You may be right, but add a bigger screen and some real keys and you’d be surprised how many people might bite.
4. The touchpad can be made bigger simply by removing the buttons (kinda like they did on the macbook).
5. What makes you think that Apple would make it cheap? $800 for a netbook sounds like the Apple Tax in full effect.

Still – You’re probably right.

John

And don’t forget how much of a pain it would be to have to carry around the refrigeration/air conditioning unit that would be required just to keep the little netbook cool.

fraggo

Apple already has a netbook; it’s called the Macbook Air. And no they aren’t planning to make a cheaper alternative to it. If you look at Apple design, all their laptops are equipped with no compromise, full size keyboard and oversized touchpads, for giving the user the best experience; a netbook cannot provide that at any price.

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