When asked today about the possibility of an Apple netbook, Steve Jobs said something to the effect of, “The market is just getting started – we’ll see how it goes.”
Huh? Here’s how the netbook market’s going, Steve: pretty much every major computer company has a netbook but you. Apple’s a prime candidate for a netbook, too. Know why? Because it’s just about the only company that could get away with selling it for well over $500. I bet Apple could sell a netbook for at least $600 or more.
So why should Apple, in particular, get into netbooks?
1. It gets people in the door at a low price point. Remember the Mac Mini? The Mac Mini’s sole purpose is to get people who are scared off by Apple’s relatively high prices into the game. But there’s a problem; nobody really buys desktops any more — especially not novice and/or basic computer users. Everyone buys laptops now.
At $999+, getting into an Apple laptop is a bit daunting for most people. But offer the Apple portable computing experience at near Mac Mini prices, and see what happens. There’s no big danger in offering an Apple netbook at $600 or more, so long as the next least expensive option remains at $999. PC notebook manufacturers don’t have that same luxury. You can’t price netbooks higher than your cheapest notebooks.
2. Netbooks are big on the whole alternative operating system thing. Regular people who would normally buy Windows-based computers are buying Linux-based netbooks without ever having used Linux before. It’s an even shorter leap to OS X. I mean, you already own an iPod, right? I use a PC for day-to-day stuff but I’d buy a Mac netbook for traveling because I know it’d be well-built, fast, and great for surfing the web.
“Regular” people would probably do the same thing. They’d say, “Oh, this doesn’t have Windows but at least I’ve heard of Apple and I like how it looks.” Plenty of people have at least used a Mac before, too, even if they usually use Windows.
3. It’s time for Apple to put out another small-ish laptop. No matter how light the MacBook Air gets, some people still want a computer that’s dimensionally small and lightweight. Howsabout a 10-inch screen? Even bring back the 12-inch screens. I saw an old 12-inch iBook G4 on the train the other week and did a double-take. They just don’t make ‘em like that any more.
4. The iPhone and iPod Touch desperately need to be integrated with something substantial. I’m not saying to go the RedFly or Palm Folio (R.I.P.) route and make the netbook useless on its own, but maybe make the netbook the one device that lets you easily tether your iPhone or perhaps include pre-set wireless synchronization or something. I’m also a huge fan of the idea of letting the iPhone/iPod Touch serve as the trackpad for the device, but you want to make the netbook so that people can buy it without having to own the other devices.
5. Make the decision easy for everyone by giving it a multi-touch screen like the one on the iPhone/iPod Touch and a good keyboard like the one on the MacBooks. People complain relentlessly about the trackpads, mouse buttons, and keyboards on today’s currently available netbooks. It might take an innovator like Apple to fix that problem.