Over the past year almost every major notebook manufacturer has announced or released a netbook. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, MSI, Samsung, and Toshiba, just to name a few. But one name that’s been noticably absent from the list is Apple. To date, the iPod and computer maker (in that order), has yet to announce a low cost ultraportable laptop. But jkOnTheRun’s Kevin Tofel thinks an Apple netbook can’t be too far off.
His argument goes something like this: The MacBook likenup is due for a refresh, and Apple could absorb the current MacBook lineup into its MacBook Pro line, thus clearing space for a new entry level model. The new entry level laptops could include a 10 inch version with integrated graphics, which Apple could sell for around $700 or $800.
It all sounds pretty plausible, until you consider one other item: This is Apple we’re talking about. The company has never really been known for offering computers for bargain hunters. Rather, Apple pumps out high quality hardware that’s designed to go with its polished operating system. You pay a bit more to get an Apple laptop than you do to get one that runs Windows because you know everything will just work out of the box.
I just don’t see Apple catering to the folks who are snapping up $400 low-to-medium performance machines. The company would probably insist on charging a premium for its computers, which I imagine would mean a MacBook Mini costing less than $800. And while that might be cheap by Apple standards, it’s a fortune compared with other netbooks.
That said, Apple is almost better known these days as a consumer electronics company than a computer company. The success of the iPod and iPhone show that Apple knows how to make devices that appeal to the masses. Perhaps Steve Jobs will decide that a netbook is a consumer oriented device that doesn’t need to cost as much as a MacBook because it doesn’t have to do as much. As long as it connects to the web, has a decent browser, and can run a few office and productivity apps, it could sell.
But I imagine this kind of an Apple netbook would look more like an iPod than a MacBook, running a stripped down version of OS X like that found on the iPhone with big, easy to use buttons for launching programs. Apple might actually be willing to sell an iPod Book for under $600, especially if the company works with mobile carriers to subsidize the cost with the addition of a 3G modem.
Until that happens, we’ll have to console ourselves with unofficial hacks like installing OS X on an MSI Wind.