One of my road warrior friends pulled a PC netbook out of her briefcase at a meeting yesterday. I said, “Hey, what’s that?” She said, “It’s my new notebook. Like it? It cost $350.” Ouch.
While the price and size are impressive, the little netbook (not notebook) was also pink. Pink as in Acer Aspire One pink. $350 worth of pink. Then she said, “Hey, Mac lover. When will Apple sell a $350 notebook?” When? Maybe sooner than we think. But never in pink.
To be honest, it was cute, and seemed to be decently constructed, assuming you like plastic and pink. Her particular model was the Acer Aspire One. It comes with Windows XP, a 1 GHz Intel Atom CPU, a gigabyte of RAM, a 160 gigabyte hard drive, an almost 9-inch screen, and a battery.
It’s smaller, much smaller, than Apple’s diminutive MacBook Air, and, it’s priced almost $1,450 less than Apple’s smallest, thinnest Mac, which weighs almost a pound more. And you thought Macs were a little more expensive than Windows PCs.
The netbook category is beginning to take off and sales are exploding worldwide. Apple’s least expensive Mac notebook is the white polycarbonate MacBook at $999, almost $650 more than the pink Acer.
A true comparison isn’t really possible because the MacBooks have full sized keyboards, full sized notebook screens, and actually dwarf most netbook models. Still, the comparisons are striking.
I asked my friend what she uses it for. She said, “Email, web browsing, some writing, not much more. It’s slow, but battery life is good, and it fits easily into my briefcase.”
Of course, that exchange brought up the same question, “When will Apple come up with a netbook?” I was real tempted to say something snarky like, “When boob jobs begin to look real!” but decided against it since my friend had been lifted already.
Reports are already surfacing that say Apple will have a netbook model by the third quarter of 2009. We’ll see. That’s from June to September, so the window is open, but I don’t think it will happen. Why?
Apple doesn’t mind following obvious trends but wholly avoids others. Cheap PCs are a trend and Apple doesn’t go there. Netbooks are cheap, flimsy, underpowered, and probably cannibalize sales from more expensive notebooks, so why would Apple bite into their bread and butter line, MacBooks.
To be fair, the MacBook Air, which looks positively Steve Wozniakian next to the pink little Acer netbook, would be a very good Apple netbook but it’s priced about $1,000 too high.
To say PC netbooks are underpowered is to say that the other Steve had a chance to win on Dancing with the Stars, despite putting in a credible and entertaining performance in front of tens of millions of viewers.
Netbooks are not as much a new category of PC, as they are what they are—small, cheap, underpowered, low quality notebooks with limited purpose. Will Apple go there and give the world a Mac netbook?
I’ve been wrong before when it comes to prognosticating Apple’s future product lines, so I’m used to disappointment. Let me venture onto the Limb of Humiliation™ and say categorically, “No, Apple will not produce a netbook.” There. Done. Why not?
Why? That’s not what Apple does. It’s $1,000 too late to make the MacBook Air Apple’s netbook entry. Anything similar for less will eat into the more profitable and hot selling MacBook line.
No, Apple needs a category shaker and maker in the inexpensive wireless tiny notebook genre. Wait. Isn’t that where the iPod touch and iPhone are already? Let’s forget the iPhone for a moment, and focus on the iPod touch and how it compares to netbooks.
The iPod touch has a better screen, but no keyboard, a slower processor, the mobile version of OS X, plenty of storage, over 25,000 apps are available already, and is priced competitively at $229 to $399. Is the iPod touch the Mac equivalent of the PC netbook?
No. I can hear my tree branch creaking already, but Apple will not make a Mac, a Mac as we know it, at the typical price points for PC netbooks. Instead, Apple will expand the iPod line with a model that redefines the category—an iPad, if you will.
The iPad will be larger than iPhone or iPod, with a larger screen, multi-touch, of course. It’ll also come with built in WiFi, plenty of memory for storage (up to 64-gigabytes), perhaps a pop out, flip open keyboard, and run AppStore applications.
What’s it good for? Email, web browsing, music, movies, mini-apps and utilities, and all the things you get in the current iPod touch, but more and bigger. What’s the price tag?
Apple will price the iPad at $399 for the basic model and scale upwards to $699 with more memory (perhaps the keyboard), video camera with iChat and VOIP capability, and a few other features.
Even though this is my wish list, it sounds plausible, doesn’t it? Here’s the deal. Apple cannot make or sell anything that’s cheap, and flimsy, butt ugly, and underpowered. They stopped that with the clamshell candy coated iBooks back around 2001.
What’s left? It has to be sleek, chic, different, priced for profit. What else can Apple do? It’ll take on the nascent tablet PC segment, the nascent PC netbook segment, and become the handheld device everyone’s waited for but that Intel and Microsoft couldn’t deliver.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. At least until summer 2009. What do you think? Am I off base by a thousand miles? Or, do you think I’m on to something? Whatever. And whatever it is Apple will not give us pink. Again.