There’s been a lot of speculation recently about the possibility of Apple entering the netbook market. Almost every major laptop maker has released or announced one. A bunch of companies that you wouldn’t normally think of as laptop makers have too. And hackers have managed to unofficially install OS X on many existing netbooks. So what’s keeping Apple?

In a quarterly earnings call, Steve Jobs today said that Apple is taking a “wait and see” approach to the netbook market. We’ve heard this line before. But there two new things came out of this call:

  1. Jobs considers the iPhone to be Apple’s existing entry into this space.
  2. Apple “has some pretty interesting ideas” for the netbook space if the market does evolve.

Now, I’m not sure what it will take before Jobs considers the market to be “evolved” enough for Apple to launch a netbook. Asus alone has already sold 4 million Eee PCs this year. Sure, Apple has sold 6.9 million iPhones, but 4 million ain’t a number to sneeze at.

But I think the bigger question isn’t whether Apple will release a netbook, but what would it look like. I think there are a lot of people who would pay an extra $100 to pick up a netbook that was identical to the MSI Wind or Lenovo Ideapad S10 but came with OS X. But based on the fact that Jobs thinks of the iPhone as Apple’s current version of a netbook, I think he considers netbooks to be portable internet devices, or consumer electronics rather than full fledged computers. And that strengthens my suspicion that an Apple netbook wouldn’t actually run a full version of OS X. Rather, I suspect it would have an iPhone-like program launcher and the ability to run some popular apps like Safari. But I’m a bit concerned that it might not be able to run the full spectrum of OS X applications.

And that’s a shame, because I think there’d be a real market for that. But if Apple were to release a $500 or $600 netbook that’s capable of running a full version of OS and perform 90% of the tasks anyone would expect from a Mac, the company might have a hard time convincing customers to shell out $999+ for a MacBook.

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15 replies on “Steve Jobs never said Apple isn’t working on a netbook”

  1. @ turn.self.off
    “thing is, if they take the iphone interface, or close to it, and add iwork into the mix, they already have a working “netbook” setup.”
    apple is working on this one
    portable screener

  2. I think such an iCrap would be called something deliciously novel, such as “Newton”…

  3. The Iphone is asuccesfull PDA, not a netbook, nor ultramovile pc.
    I.E. you cannot really do things like buy an airplane ticket on a an Iphone due its VERY limited resolution.
    Is still one of the better PDA-PHONES in the market, tough…

  4. Taking the iPhone OS (which is also based on Darwin) and putting onto a netbook would be great. I think trying to cram OS X onto a netbook would result in an under performer unless it is at the high end of the so called netbook range where it would be hard to tell the difference between it and a MacBook…. Gary

    1. Newflash…users are already installing OSX on existing netbooks which don’t appear to be underperformers.

      1. Breaking news… I have a Mac and I wouldn’t want to run OS X day to day without at least 2GB of RAM… Which netbooks come with 2GB?

        Gary

        1. I wouldnt run Vista without 4 GB of ram either …what’s your point?
          That OS10 and Vista are both resource hogs?
          Yeah, we sort of knew that…

          The netbooks I use seem to work just fine with 512 and 1GB ram
          with both Linux and XP.

          Instead of trying to blame the hardware for not being bloated enough, Id look at your toy OS instead.

          I run a 10 year old Thinkpad T21 and even use a 3d desktop on this old hardware. Operating system should work with anything I throw at it because it has to work for me, not the other way around.

          Hardware is not the problem.
          Your OS is.

          As for the 2GB of ram, I know the concept of opening a computer and modding it is hard for a Mac user to grasp when they cant even replace their own batteries in their closed down toys but you can put in a 2GB ram stick for about 30$ in your netbooks. Just put one in a Dell Mini this week. 100 times easier than the Acer One.

          1. “I wouldnt run Vista without 4 GB of ram either …what’s your point?”

            That is exactly my point… I suggested that using the iPhone OS which is based on Darwin (like OS X) would be better than trying to fit OS X on a netbook!

            “The netbooks I use seem to work just fine with 512 and 1GB ram with both Linux and XP.”

            Exactly… XP and Linux, not OS X and Vista… OS X will run in 1GB OK, my Mac had 1GB until I upgraded it myself to 2GB. So… “I know the concept of opening a computer and modding it is hard for a Mac user”… not really!

  5. Since you can do pretty much everything under linux what you can do under osx, apple laptops are just a show off. I don’t think they will release a laptop for $600 or under. It’s just simply not their profile.

  6. Wow, color me surprised.
    Apple is going to wait and let the market mature before they jump into a new market or heaven forbid, actually herald a new one.
    People keep pointing to their ‘revolutionary ipod’ and iphone but both were followers not the originators.

    The pricing is where they wont be able to make it work especially if it did 90% of what a regular one would do.
    let’s face it, apart from a small minority of ‘graphic artists’ who really need to use Photoshop and Final Cut, most Mac users dont need OS X, they could be very happy with less (and more than any group, if they are told they need/dont need something, they usually go along with it) and make the price to close to the regular MacBook and youll have the problem from your last paragraph.

    Speaking of low cost Apple, they just killed off the Mac Mini line which was their cheapest Apple.

    And if you want to compare numbers, Acer’s first quarter selling the One they sold 2 million of them. In Apple’s record setting first quarter, they sold 1.4 (or 1.6) million laptops.

    1. heh, i see im not the only one with a “told you so” feeling.

      i have been doing some guesswork in the direction of apple over time replacing the consumer part of their mac lineup (desktop and laptop) with something that have more in common with iphone then current day osx.

      thing is, if they take the iphone interface, or close to it, and add iwork into the mix, they already have a working “netbook” setup.

  7. My guess is an $800 netbook that runs a cut-down version of OSX. It will definitely have a touch screen (possibly no keyboard). I expect a data contract like the I-phone might make it cheaper up front. AT&T is the most likely partner. Think of a larger, fully connected I-pod touch which is more capable than the current I-pod touch. Just my $0.02.

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