5 Reasons Why An Apple Netbook Will Be Released At Macworld

by Hadley Stern Dec 11, 2008

Ever since the invention of the Macintosh that has been a battle between the notions of price and quality at Apple. Originally Steve Jobs wanted the Mac to be an affordable computer, "for the rest of us." Of course once the team crammed all the features Steve wanted in there the computer's price became much higher.

As it turns out the definition, "for the rest of us" leaves out quite a lot of people.

It is with this backdrop that we find ourselves confronted with the curious challenge of the so-called Netbook.

Netbook's have an interesting appeal--I find myself seduced by them too. Small, compact, and powerful enough to do things we do a lot on computers and unencumbered by features we don't need.

Manufacturer after manufacturer are coming out with them, including folks like Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Even without this trend it is my strong hope, and belief, that Apple will follow suit at Macworld. It is in this spirit that I present to you my 5 reasons why Apple will be releasing a Net book (iBook?!) at Macworld.

Reason 1: It's the economy, stupid
Steve Jobs is fond of saying that a good computer cannot be made for under $500. He also said that an iPod screen was too small for video and we all know how that worked out.

The fact is times are tough, and when times are tough people, more than ever, research before they buy. And what they discover is that if they want an Apple equivalent of a Netbook they could go with the Air, for about $1000 more, or go with a Macbook, for at least $500 more.

Just like the Mac mini had to be made in order to fill a gap in the marketplace so too an Apple Netbook is required.  As Netbook specs improve people will buy them as second or third laptops. Apple will lose money if it doesn't engage this market.

Reason 2: Chips, chips, chips
When the move to Intel was announced Steve Jobs was clear that Apple was excited because of the variety of products it could release under the Intel family. This to me reads Atom, which powers most Netbooks. It may not look like any other Netbook (or at least his Steveness will convince us it doesn't) but no doubt whatever Apple releases will have this kind of chip.

Reason 3: The iPhone
Here is where I'm convinced Apple could be the differentiator for Netbooks. I think Apple should release a tablet style Netbook that leverages the operating system work that has been done on the iPhone. Basically a notebook sizes iPhone. Practically the same design and all powered by OS X underneath. Apple could even utilize the same App Store structure for the release (and monetization) of applications development for the big version of the iPhone

This product would be a super-thin screen folks could carry everywhere. Unlike the Tablet-PC there wouldn't be the expectation that this could be docked to a real keyboard, or that it would a persons dedicated machine. But for reading email, surfing the web, writing documents using a virtual keyboard this device would be perfect.

This would solidify Apple's place as the operating system of choice for multi-touch devices and be a natural extension of the iPhone's success.

Reason 4: Steve gets to say he invented it

The Netbook landscape right now looks remarkably similar to the portable music player market pre-iPod (it actually looks a little more mature). It is a fragmented landscape, with a bunch of crappy looking devices that are essentially shrunken down laptops. Smaller screen, lower processor, less ram, and in some cases the ever-so-friendly Linux.

If Steve blasts in with an innovative reinvention of the Netbook Apple has the opportunity to define and own the Netbook space. Like with the iPhone and iPod, Apple could become the de facto choice for an alternate laptop device. And Steve gets to say he invented it.

Reason 5: Another reason to extend iTunes Reach
A Netbook has the potential to be much more than just a word processing, web-surfing, and emailing machine. It could become the ultimate portable media player. And anything media has to have iTunes running on it.
More than just media, Apple could use iTunes to be the syncing tool between a users main machine (Mac or PC!) and the Apple Netbook. This would continue to extend iTunes reach not only as a music player, but as an operating system for the Apple hardware universe.


  • I definitely agree with much of what you say here, Chris. While Apple may hold out on the netbook until say next Summer, I think it would be very naive of them to ignore this market.  As much as I need one or two pro level computers for the work I do, I simply don’t want to shell out over $600 for a 13” MacBook or MacBook Air in order to word process, surf the web, and chat with some folks.

    Bakari had this to say on Dec 11, 2008 Posts: 37
  • Correct! all we really need is a bigger Touch - a 7” or 9” screen - plus some improvements everyone has already asked for, like running at least a few apps in the background. someone will then provide the necessary ‘Office’ style app suite - a simplified GoogleWorks or even Apple’s iWorks. this would take half the netbook market almost immediately if priced at, say, $499.

    Alfiejr had this to say on Dec 11, 2008 Posts: 18
  • It would be cool to adopt a clamshell format joined along the long edge with a screen on both halves.  This would also allow it to be used as a book reader.  This would get them in the netbook business as well as the “Kindle”.  Books could be bought from iTunes or even Amazon.

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Dec 11, 2008 Posts: 29
  • The economy is not a good reason for Apple to go cheap. I am writing this on a three your old G5 iMac that works great running Leopard. I intend to keep using it for at least another couple of years or more. That’s economy. You buy a quality product and it lasts several years. Our two 2001 gum drop iMacs,that our networked through wireless ethernet bridges, are still in daily use in our house.

    Flyboybob had this to say on Dec 14, 2008 Posts: 33
  • Apple already has a NetBook.  It is called MacBook AIR.

    A better product would be a Tablet Version of the iPhone, the size of a Paperback Book or larger.  Apple can sell it as the “iBook”.

    Apple could then sell books or texbooks using the standard eBook format through iTunes. 

    And users can create their own PDF books to read on it.

    Optional would be an external keyboard.

    New applications could be sold through the iTunes iBook App Store.

    It would be an entirely new platform.  It would still be based on OS X.  But it would be a lot simpler than a desktop.  And it would have fewer headaches on a smaller screen than a desktop.

    The screen of the MacBook already is too small for desktop use.  I don’t believe you can shoehorn a desktop OS on a smaller format.  This is what Microsoft always tries to do - and fails in doing so.  The beauty of the iPhone is the use of an entirely new UI using the same underlying OS.

    The iBook would have cell phone capabilities via a PC Card.  This would allow the cell phone capabilities to change as technology changes.

    It would have a largeer speaker than the iPhone, and can thus be a good speaker phone.

    It could have a camera in front thus would be a natural for doing iChat.

    The iBook can be sold to every university and high school student as a replacement for their textbooks.  Imagine that!  This would reduce the cost for publishers since their is no hard copy. 

    This iBook would certainly lower the weight that students carry in their backpacks.

    The iBook would kill the Kindle.  It would be far better than whatever Amazon can design.

    James Katt had this to say on Dec 14, 2008 Posts: 11
  • I doubt any Netbook hybrid would use Atom chips, ARM etc is far more likely. Especially if they plan on custom applications - then the chip no longer matters.

    Apple’s already done this before too… the Newton became the eBook.

    I’m intrigued as to whether they could make something with an iPhone touch screen and keyboard, that looks similar to the MacBook Air only smaller… and with no touch pad at all. Could they make the screen do everything the touch pad (or mouse) does while still providing a word processing environment?

    ps. I think iBook is a likely future name of some Mac product - the prefix “Mac” is for full MacOSX stuff, the prefix “i” for lesser/customised/focussed products.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Dec 19, 2008 Posts: 228
  • I think It would be cool to adopt a clamshell format joined along the long edge with a screen on both halves
    lighting sale.  This would also allow it to be used as a book reader.  This would get them in the netbook business as well as the “Kindle”.  Books could be bought from iTunes or even Amazon.

    Ericka Bentle had this to say on Jun 01, 2011 Posts: 64
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