Questioning the netbook phenomenon

Can any computer maker, even Apple, ignore the trend?

April 23, 2009 (Computerworld) It's human nature to get on the bandwagon of a "good thing." Take the screaming hype that is the netbook phenomenon, for example. Although it's clear the netbook trend is real, my hype meter wagged over into the "tilt" field when I read these words from Dan Nystedt of the IDG News Service:

"The network will truly become the computer, as Sun Microsystems used to say. Or in more modern terms, the Cloud for consumers will have arrived."

Nystedt was writing to express surprise at Apple COO Tim Cook's recent negative comments about netbooks. Like Nystedt, I don't think any computer manufacturer can afford to ignore the netbook trend. I've even suggested in the past that Apple deliver a low-cost, netbook-style Mac.

I also can't agree with Cook that the netbook experience is voided by what he described as "cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience" during a quarterly financial conference call on Wednesday. On the other hand, Cook's apparent condemnation of all existing netbooks does not mean that Apple is pooh-poohing the entire idea. Macworld's editor in chief, Jason Snell, makes this point better than I could in his article Apple to netbooks: Drop dead.

Snell writes: "Apple ... often runs down its competitors in a category before introducing its own game-changing product in that category." I've found that statement to be true as well.

If you buy into that interpretation, Cook's comments imply that Apple's netbook product, if it has one, is likely to be one of two things:

1.) An iPhone 3.0 software-based, iPhone-derivative tablet-like device that Apple does not at all position as a netbook, but that is likely to be half smartphone, half small form-factor computer. Apple's incredible success with its iPhone App Store has to be factored into the advantage that such a device would have.

2.) A lower-cost Mac with limitations that keep it from cutting into other Mac sales, but with a very intriguing, game-changing hardware design. More than likely, this option isn't close to launch.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also positioning Windows 7 for netbooks, and the message seems to be clear to me. It's aimed at netbook manufacturers: You want to use Windows 7 on netbooks? We're going to use some of our power at generating negative press to outmuscle you into paying the full notebook freight for Windows 7 instead of the lesser price for reduced-functionality Windows 7. Microsoft isn't targeting this at netbook buyers. If it were, it wouldn't be sending the message now. It would wait and quietly slip it under the rug at Windows 7 launch time.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applenetbook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scot Finnie

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?