Blog Post

Apple Netbook Rumors Gain Momentum Once Again

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

foxconn-logoIf sheer consumer will alone could ever put a piece of hardware into production, then the Apple (s aapl) netbook would’ve been made a hundred times over by now, and in some ways it has, thanks to DIY hackintosh machines. Rumors of the real thing are gaining steam once again, and at this point I’m beginning to wonder if Apple can afford to break the hearts of their loyal following without sending even more of them into the loving embrace of the Dell (s dell) Mini 9.

The latest rumors come from the Chinese-language tech and business blog the Commercial Times (as translated by DigiTimes), which is reporting that Foxconn Electronics (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry) has already signed a deal with Apple to put their upcoming netbook into production. Foxconn is already responsible for making the iPhone 3G and potentially components for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 as well, so it makes sense that Apple would go back to them for this type of device if one is indeed in the pipeline.

Added to earlier rumors of a 10-inch touchscreen being manufactured for Apple, the picture that emerges is of a device that might prove a little more expensive than most were hoping for, though at this point Apple has teased desire for a tablet/small form factor device to such an extreme level that people will probably overlook a $200 premium just to get their hands on the thing. I still don’t see them confusing customers by pricing it too closely to the MacBook line, so look for something between $599 and $799, depending on options and upgrades. That would put it close to the Mac mini, but the products differ enough that they could avoid cannibalizing sales.

14 Responses to “Apple Netbook Rumors Gain Momentum Once Again”

  1. One justification for a Mac netbook I haven’t heard much is the EDU market. In addition to the obvious college market, Apple is still big in middle and high schools, in fact in California there are many “laptop programs” where students use laptops during most classes, and most of them require Macs.

    The problem is, those students need a) web browsing b) email c) word processor d) presentation/light graphics and e) PORTABILITY. For those requirements, what makes more sense for students, and parents of students, especially in this economy:

    1) lowest cost Macbook + software $999
    2) Dell Mini 9 + software $499

    And the Mini 9 is smaller, lighter, and honestly less to insure or to replace if – make that when – it gets damaged. I have heard some of the parents are building hackintoshed Dell Mini 9’s for their kids in these programs, at half the cost of a Macbook.

    IMO Apple must address this gap in their product line to keep a hold of the student market, which has always been important to them.

  2. I don’t know whats in it for apple. I too cannot really see a touchscreen laptop gelling with consumers. A 10″ screen macbook is a possibility but they would have to price it at like $800. For Apple, trying to compete at the commodity end of town doesn’t make a lot of sense. Those companies don’t make much money. The Macbook Air was really cool but most people don’t really see the point because you pay more for less for something that is thinner but marginally more portable than a standard Macbook but much less powerful. I think they will come up with a very thin 10″ premium laptop priced at $800. They may then need to scrap the Macbook Air.

  3. “ah yeah right. Maybe in a Redmond machine because it has lame integration. On OS X it’s not unusual (just gotta love T.J.) to run with 10 plus apps. It’s not the 80’s any more dude!”

    For the majority of computer users it is. Unlike you and I, the cognoscenti of computing, most users struggle everyday to use their machines. Many think Microsoft Word is an operating system. If they save a file in an unfamiliar folder, a folder without a shortcut, they cannot navigate their hard disk and find it. Jef Raskin was right. The comment I wrote is not a gushing prediction of what wonderful devices are soon coming, but a cautionary tale of how simple consumers, even with a Mac, still don’t have a simple information device and would gladly sell their technological souls for such an item. Rather than seeing the computer as a device that might free them to write a book, create music, an animation, a video, all they need is a glorified tv. The wireless companies see an opportunity, via company branded netbooks, in the space of a generational turnover to make “all your computer belong to us”. Whether this will happen or to what extent, I cannot say, but the confluence of simplicity plus the low cost of a commodity item netbook, plus the wireless always on connection with cloud computing implications, makes this scenario a real possibility. Sales of desktops are already waning and large notebooks are next. With LTE coming, wired ISPs without caps and independent hardware will be but a past memory for the majority of “computer” users. And they will be happy.

  4. NoRedmondThankYouVeryMuch

    “Windows 7 for netbooks will be reportedly be limited to three apps at a time. That’s about all the average consumer needs. ”

    ah yeah right. Maybe in a Redmond machine because it has lame integration. On OS X it’s not unusual (just gotta love T.J.) to run with 10 plus apps. It’s not the 80’s any more dude!

  5. One could imagine Apple would like to expand further on the App Store, a tablet could really help with that, essentially 90% of the apps could be customized slightly and then resold.

    Apple also build a huge framework for the iPhone, building a tablet would be peanuts compared to this, then just plug and play the framework onto it and you got an instant success!

    I like your idea, I really hope that it will not be subsidized but I can totally see the potential in shifting the paradigm towards “always online cloud computing mega phone mini laptops” the phone carriers would love that.

    But I can’t imagine typing anything else that the 100 character text or the 150 character email on a touch screen, I’m an iPhone owner.

  6. Apple is not releasing a tablety, netbookish, e-reader device because it wants to. Problem is the cell companies are looking to upgrade from phones to something more like a computer. Imagine a device that is constantly connected, the data plan provides cloud computing features and is wireless branded and limited and people so happy to use it they forget real desktops or even large laptops. It’s called paradigm shift and whether it works is unknown, but the opportunity for Verizon and AT&T is limitless. This summer will be the season of the wireless sponsored netbook with various hardware companies participating. Windows 7 for netbooks will be reportedly be limited to three apps at a time. That’s about all the average consumer needs. Video, streamed music, surf, mail, IM/Twit. ISPs are having a devil of a time capping users, but juicy wireless plans are another story. This scenario, of course, will not interest anyone who produces content, but people who consume content – they may make the switch, particularly if it includes a less complex UI/OS than what a computer runs. Price is irrelevant since the device will require an active wireless account it will be subsidized, so figure the usual $200 down payment and $1500-2000 installment/data plan. All this is a dress rehearsal for LTE. Hopefully the Apple offering will be a stunner, like a dual screen, two-page e-book, dual screen game machine/game board. dual screen tablet (acting as one), and dual screen, as in screen – touch screen netbook. By filling all four niches at once with an innovative design, Apple has a fighting chance to stand out.

  7. I’d have to see the device before I form an opinion. However, it’s not hard to imagine a device like this. It would be more functional than a mobile phone. Less functional than a real laptop. I’d imagine a full touch screen interface that would be ideal for watching movies on an airplane, in a car, etc. It would obviously do everything the iPod Touch does such as music, games, etc. Imagine a screen large enough to be a real e-book reader. Sort of like what the Kindle should have been. Now imagine showing photos, etc. to friends on the same screen. If it’s $500 or less, you wouldn’t use it to replace a laptop, though possibly you could. Rather, I can imagine taking a device like this on a trip rather than a larger laptop. Also, with the newspaper industry in trouble, the timing might be right for a small, lightweight reader device like this. I’d rather do casual surfing on a small device than with a laptop in most cases.

    Unlike the current NetBooks, I don’t see Apple doing anything to cannibalize existing laptop sales. If Apple is smart, they’ll find a way to capture the same market without losing actual laptop sales. More like people who would not purchase a full PC laptop but might have purchased a PC NetBook. The next question would be software…

  8. Olternaut

    If it doesn’t use flexible screen technology then it is going to be a slate….face it.
    I wouldn’t mind something similar to the OLPC XO-2 concept though. :)

  9. The idea of a Mac Netbook sounds great. However, I cannot find it in me to ever want what would essential be a giant iPhone or iPod touch. The touchscreen idea for something that large really sounds terrible. If you are type-by-touch person, it is miserable experience to type on my iPhone now, I can’t imagine doing it on a netbook/tablet.