Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

Summary: Is the MacBook Air a netbook? Many say it is not, leading to questions as to whether Apple has ever dented the netbook market at all.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility
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The MacBook Air is the jewel in the crown of Apple's ultra-light, portable notebook devices. Or is it?

The second generation MacBook Air was the size of a standard netbook, whilst remaining its immense thinness. But it sacrificed a great deal in the process.

But as new notebook-sized and laptop-sized MacBook Air's reportedly on their way out this summer, with new processors and Thunderbolt technology, one has to question whether the device is contributing anything at all to the netbook market.

While many netbook users today get along relatively well without an optical drive, one suspects that the Mac App Store will all but negate the use or need for a portable optical drive, as will the Windows Store for non-Apple netbooks.

But the MacBook Air is generally more powerful than the vast majority of netbooks on the market. Don't get me wrong; I doubt many are complaining over this.

MacBook Air's have been relatively popular, with over 1.1 million units bought in the last quarter of 2010, accounting for 40% of Apple's netbook business.

But the non-Apple netbooks saw huge sales in comparison to the MacBook Air, even though the iPad dented netbook sales

Maybe Apple's tablet venture is masking seemingly poor MacBook Air sales?

The debate isn't necessarily whether the 11-inch MacBook Air is a netbook or not. Some say outright that "no, it is not a netbook" whereas the size and lesser power than its larger and more expensive 13-inch counterpart would indicate that indeed it was of 'netbook specification'.

So what makes a netbook?

I would argue that a netbook is quite simply in combination of a smaller size, roughly around 11-inches in screen size, and with lesser memory and functionality to that of a fully-fledged laptop, and a significantly cheaper price to that of its desktop or laptop counterpart.

The MacBook Air is nearly three times the price of an average netbook, absent of an optical drive and less powerful than its 13-inch 'better' model. The cost, however, could be attributed to the solid-state hard drive which by very nature costs disproportionately more than its non-solid state competitor.

If you want a Mac, but can't afford the full-brunt force of the Apple cash hungry machine, a netbook-sized 11-inch MacBook Air seems a wise compromise.

But as Apple clearly has not made a device to netbook specification -- most notably on price regarding its only netbook-like device, the MacBook Air, Apple arguably has never been in the netbook game.

At least it gives the company something else to focus on. It still has an entire segment of the market to crack: the netbook segment.

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Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility

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29 comments
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  • What do you think?

    Is Apple still in the netbook game, or was it ever? Do you believe the new MacBook Air can win over existing netbook users, or potential new netbook buyers, into the 'netbook way of thinking'? Or are consumers too focused on the iPad and tablets to even think about a netbook?
    zwhittaker
    • Yes, the MacBook Air IS a netbook / notebook. As I said earlier, Apple

      would compete in netbooks, but, they would go high end, charge twice as much or more than everybody else, and have higher margins than anybody else on the planet. Is that not the situation with MacBook Air?<br><br>Now, look for Apple to do a MacBook Air sized quad-core Arm system with two days battery life, less expensive than the MacBook Air, but even better margins.<br><br>Oh, Apple will NOT go less than 11.6 inches on the screen size for the foreseeable future.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @DonnieBoy
        Great point, Apple innovates and keeps the prices high... consumers buy. Netbooks are cheap and ugly, just look at the picture above compared to Macbook Air.
        Hasam1991
    • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

      @zwhittaker No, they said they wouldn't build one, they didn't build one, they aren't about to build one.

      Does this blog entry actually have a point? (Hint: No)
      jeremychappell
    • The obsession with categorization and labelling

      @zwhittaker<br><br>These types of issues cause endless and pointless debates. When you go out to buy a car, you do not obsess about whether it is a subcompact, compact, econobox or whatever. You buy one of the size and performance to meet your needs and within your budget. It may have a 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 or 12 cylinder engine, but we do not obsess over that either. Bigger and more expensive cars may be able to do more, but if you cannot afford them or do not need them, you buy something smaller and cheaper.<br><br>I long for when we can get to the same place in the "portable computer with a screen and (close to) a full size keyboard" market. Consumer demand and technology will sort this mess out quite nicely, just like for cars.<br><br>Edit: As far as the tablet vs netbook issue is concerned, similar analogies apply. If you need a van, you buy a van, and not a 2 door sedan. If you need a truck, you do not buy an open roadster. There will be a need for compact portable devices with a good keyboard for the foreseeable future, and there are many advantages to tablets also. It will all sort itself out quite nicely, and no amount of fan boy obsessing on either (any) side will make any difference in the end.
      Economister
    • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

      @zwhittaker I don't think they were ever really in the netbook game. As for the "netbook way of thinking", aren't netbooks just cheap systems with minimal functionality? Apple doesn't strike me as having plans to win the "race to the bottom" that most netbook companies are in--hell, even Acer, the undisputed champion of the bargain basement, has been trying to change its focus (then again, Acer's management once thought that buying Packard Bell was a good idea, so take that with Lot's wife).
      Third of Five
  • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

    Netbooks are still alive, but a Macbook Air is not a Netbook. Not even close. When the Air comes down to like 400$, then it can be called a Netbook, until then, it's just a small Macbook.

    Netbooks are meant to be cheap, plain and simple.
    Bates_
    • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

      @Bates_

      Exactly. There have been thin and light laptops before but at a price tag. At a $1200 starting price the MacBook Air is not a NetBook for that reason and also since it uses standard processors and not the ultra low voltage/cost Atom Processors.

      The Next MacBook Air will have Intel Sandy Bridge so they are a full computer that is just thinner and lighter.
      bobiroc
    • Nope, it is a very expensive large netbook. Apple has better margins than

      anybody else. But, look for them to keep the margins, and go with quad-core Arm for something the same size as the Macbook air, but, 2 day battery life, less expensive.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @DonnieBoy That's not what a Netbook is. "Very expensive large netbook" is a tech oxymoron. It doesn't work.

        A netbook is a small, power efficient, cheap internet surfing device. It is meant to be toted around easily, and to have a good battery life while staying cheap. It also usually has a light OS to speed up performance and keep resources free.

        Aside from being small (not really netbook small but close), a Macbook air is none of which I listed. It isn't a Netbook, and never will be.
        Bates_
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @DonnieBoy

        As usual wrong again. Thin and light Notebooks/Laptops are not a new concept. They usually sacrifice things like ROM drives and expansion ports to make them smaller and lighter. A NetBook has a lot to do with the price range as well and while you can add onto a netbook to get it about $500 in some cases most (if not all) have a starting price in the $200 - $400 range.

        The MacBook Air uses standard mobile processors like the Core2Duo in its current form and Core i5 Sandy Bridge this summer making it comparable to a regular Notebook in terms of power just lighter and thinner and a slightly smaller screen.
        bobiroc
      • Guys, at 11.6 inches, the Macbook Air is only marginally bigger than other

        netbooks, but, it is thinner and lighter than a lot of netbooks. Sure, Apple did not want to call it a netbook and sell it cheaper, but, it serves the EXACT same purpose as a netbook, with the bonus that it has a slightly larger screen, thinner, lighter, and more powerful than most. And, let us not forget great styling. So, many people are willing to pay for that, giving Apple some GREAT margins.
        DonnieBoy
  • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

    Im pretty sure steve jobs made it clear that they werent interested in making netbooks. What apple is doing is selling an extremely portable laptop for sales reps and business executives who travel a lot. For those people, the value is in having less weight to their briefcases when they get on and off of planes all week long.
    nickswift498
    • Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field

      @nickswift498 No Steve Jobs was not interested in making netbooks when his competitors beat him to the market with small form factor computers. After the last MacBook Air came out, he promoted the revolutionary approach of small notebook devices.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @facebook@...
        Clue Suppression Field.
        Beat him to market?!? Newsflash to the clueless. The eMate came out in 1997. The powerbook Duo came out in 1992! It was only 4.1 pounds, smaller than a sheet of paper (10.9 ? 8.5 in (280 ? 220 mm) and only 1.4" thick.
        You were saying?
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @DeusXMachina

        OK...successfully beat them to market. Just because the first touch screen phone can trace its origins as far bask as the IBM Simon, and not the derivative iphone 3gs, does not mean that if IBM issued a new phone others did not *successfully* beat them to market.
        Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

        @facebook@...<br><br>Again, why do you post before you check facts?<br>The powerbook duo was a very successful machine, both for Apple, and in general.<br>Also, being successful IN the market has nothing to do with successfully beating competitors TO market. If a company in first to market, it successfully beat its competitors to market. Period.
        DeusXMachina
    • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

      @nickswift498 Perhaps they should. iNetbook or something. OK that's a lame name for it (considering the iBook is out of use), but they could do what they did with the tablet market with the netbook market. They can't really lose.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

    pointless blog... iYawn!
    browser.
    • RE: Is Apple still (or was it ever) in the netbook game?

      @browser. And a pointless comment from you.
      zwhittaker