Thanks to my incessant evangelizing, my next door neighbor has two Macs. An iMac and a MacBook.
I’m something of the neighborhood Mac system administrator. Imagine my surprise when one of my, uh, neighbor students purchased a PC.
She didn’t lug home just any old junk PC, like from Dell or HP or whomever else makes those things. She bought an ASUS netbook PC for $330.
Why? What did I do wrong? Why are my subjects forsaking me? Will this wicked disease inflict other neighbors? Or, is it a trend that I’m missing out on because I prefer to use a Mac?
My neighbor’s netbook is an ASUS Eee PC, an underpowered, tiny, flimsy, squinty-eye-making, ill-mannered little sloth of a computing beast which runs Microsoft’s very ancient, creaky, insecure Windows XP.
Why? Because, for $330 you can’t get much more than plastic, a small hard drive, a smaller than small screen, a gig of RAM, and an Intel processor so small and slow it’s called Atom.
My neighbor countered my arguments of hypocrisy with, “It only cost $330.” Alright, that’s hard to argue with since it’s actually a lot less money than Apple’s early entry into the netbook arena, the MacBook Air, which sells for about $1,800.
To be fair, netbooks, smaller than small notebooks, have been around awhile. The only difference between the new and now and the then mini-notebooks is the price. And quality of construction.
The new PC netbooks, at least in my neighborhood—I counted three total—are small, yes, but useful. How so? Email. Web browsing. YouTube watching. Instant messaging. Music playing. And, well there’s not much else.
These uncomfortably small, grotesquely flimsy little wireless connectivity devices (I spend more on Pampers each month) seem to serve a purpose in the household and among business road warriors as the second, third, or even fourth PC.
Think of the netbook as the household’s common PC, so light it floats, nobody keeps personal files on it, but it gravitates from person to person, from mom to dad, from daughter to bother, as easily as a $20 bill, but more frequently.
Apple says the netbook PC market is mostly much ado about not much just yet, and they’re correct. At $300, netbook PCs are priced less than an iPod touch, far less than an iPhone’s annual cost of about $1,000 or so.
Is Apple’s netbook really the MacBook Air? It would be if it cost $1,000 less than it does now, but that’s not likely to happen. Is Apple’s netbook the wireless iPod touch? After all, the touch does email, web browsing, instant messaging, YouTube, games, and more.
Frankly, the iPod touch feels a lot more substantial than some of my neighbors netbook PCs.
The bigger difference between them can be summed up this way. The netbook PCs have more powerful processors, larger screens, better keyboards, and cost about the same. Oh, and there’s that whole Windows XP thing (some even run various versions of Linux).
Not only do I predict that the netbook is an emerging and popular market, I predict that Apple will address that market in a unique and very satisfying way.
How? By dropping the price of a MacBook Air by $1,000? That’s a question, not a statement, and the answer is “no.” I’d buy one then, but it won’t happen.
Apple will respond by serving up faster and more capable iPod touch and iPhones. After all, you can’t put a netbook PC in your pocket, right? Apple might even go so far as to introduce a slightly larger iPod touch, call it an iPad (I know, we’ve been pushing that name for years; one day it’ll stick).
Price it slightly above the netbook PC, iPod touch levels, and Apple will have another hit. When will Apple do this? I’m certain it will be shortly before pigs fly. But I want one.