Apple Needs A Netbook ... Like We Need A Third Elbow - InformationWeek

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11/26/2008
11:52 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Apple Needs A Netbook ... Like We Need A Third Elbow

There's been talk here and there about how Apple needs to release a netbook-style machine to remain "competitive." It's a bad idea, and a misleading one.

There's been talk here and there about how Apple needs to release a netbook-style machine to remain "competitive." It's a bad idea, and a misleading one.

Here's a quick rundown of the reasons I think a netbook is wrong for Apple, and for people who want a netbook as well:

1) The netbook concept does not fit with Apple, period. It sells branded luxury goods that just happen to be computers and digital music devices. Everything it's created for the lower-end demographics has been pushed out of the way by competitors -- the ridiculously overpriced iPod Shuffle, for instance.

2) Apple is not competing with netbook machines in any real sense. Not only because the two don't address the same demographic; they don't even address the same needs.

3) The price point for netbooks is way out of the realm of anything Apple could produce given the way it works. It charges a premium cost for all its products, and its business model is engineered around that.

4) A lesser consideration, but one that squares with my own coverage of the whole thing: Netbooks, especially the Linux-based models, are generally pretty tinkerer-friendly. The closest cousin to such a device for Apple would be the iPhone, which is as locked down as this sort of thing gets.

I am prepared to be wrong about all this. Apple could use the above-mentioned iPhone as a starting base for such a device, drop the features that didn't absolutely need to be there, and come up with something pretty respectable.

But, again, at what price? Apple's price tags go back into subsidizing the (presumably heavy) R&D costs needed to create such snazzy gadgets. And since the netbook market is a race to the bottom -- albeit a very creative and lively one -- that's the wrong race for Apple.


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