Not an Apple netbook
Not an Apple netbook

Apple execs haven’t ever been shy in telling the world what they think about netbooks. And during an earnings call yesterday Apple COO Tim Cook reiterated Apple’s position on netbooks: they’re awful little things that Apple doesn’t “believe that customers will be interested in,” and you’re better off buying an iPhone or iPod touch.

Never mind the fact that well over 10 million netbooks were sold in 2008, and 2-3 times that number are expected to sell in 2009. Apparently customers aren’t actually interested in netbooks… you know, becuase Apple isn’t interested in making them.

Of course, there’ve been rumors going around for months that Apple is planning to launch a small tablet-style device that falls somewhere between an iPhone and a laptop. I suspect within the next few months Tim Cook and friends will be trying to convince us that the reason they’ve been scoffing at netbooks is because they’ve come up with a much more useful mobile device that offers more power and a larger screen than an iPhone, but which is still easier to carry around than a full sized laptop.

But considering one of Cook’s primary complaints about netbooks it their “cramped keyboards,” I kind of don’t see how releasing a tablet without a keyboard at all will address the problem.

Update: While the article linked to in this post is dated this week, it seems to be referring to Cook’s comments from Apple’s last earnings call. The company held another call today to discuss the latest earnings, and it turns out that Cook still isn’t ready to announce anything resembling a netbook. But his stance does seem to have softened a bit. He now says “some customers, maybe many” are disappointed with the cheap mini-laptops, and that Apple doesn’t see a way to build a “great product” in this space for under $499.

Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,543 other subscribers

17 replies on “Update: Apple still thinks netbooks stink”

  1. Apple will poo-poo netbooks until it releases it’s own and then they will be great and they will claim they came up with it.

  2. Cook still isn’t ready to announce anything resembling a netbook. But his stance does seem to have softened a bit. He now says “some customers, maybe many” are disappointed with the cheap mini-laptops, … and that Apple doesn’t see a way to build a “great product” in this space for under $499.
    Is he saying the vast majority of the 10 million who purchased Netbooks are disappointed and that 20 million folks who are forecasted to purchase Netbooks in 2010 are in for a disappointment as well? What he seems to be implying is that consumer are just plain stupid, a very interesting way to increase your market share!

  3. “Apple already make and sell their counterpart to a netbook. . . It’s the MacBook Air”
    Most Netbooks are 1/2 the size of MacBook Air and 1/4 the price$

    1. It’s not that simple. . .

      The Dell Mini-9 (now discontinued in favor of the larger Mini-10) is about 37mm thick versus 22mm for the MacBook Air. The Mini-9 is 23cm wide versus 32.4cm for the MacBook Air. So that makes the Mac, let’s see — just about 40% thinner and 40% wider than the Mini-9. Funny how that works out. It’s definitely not twice as big, as you made it sound.

      I never said the Air was a netbook as such, just that it’s Apple’s answer to one. It’s their way of going ultra-portable. Steve Jobs apparently didn’t fee a tiny mutant keyboard (like the one on the Mini-9 that drives me crazy) or a tiny trackpad or a tiny screen was acceptable, so this is what they were left with. Going thin and lightweight was what they could do without compromising the user interface.

      As for the price. . . The MacBook Air is very solidly built, has some “excess functionality” (like the backlighted keyboard) that could be jettisoned, and a more powerful processor than this type of computer really needs. Apple have already slashed the price drastically since they were introduced. I think Apple would be smart to pursue a less expensive design for the MacBook air, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve got one in the works.

      A cheaper and somewhat lower-specced MacBook Air would compete better against netbooks. It still wouldn’t technically *be* a netbook, and it still wouldn’t be as cheap as most netbooks, but it would be closer and could fill that role for Apple.

  4. Netbooks are peeling some of the skin off Apple’s revenues and they aren’t happy. Apple execs are just upset because for the first time in several years they are caught following their competitors successful market segment versus leading the way!

    Surfing the net or watching feature length movies on screens under 4-5 inches is a bit of joke. The value in the I-phone and I-touch is with the downloadable games and digital music and short text messaging. If you want to do more than that you need something with a keyboard (Blackberry or Netbook).

    Netbooks are here to stay and Apple will disregard this market segment at its own peril!

  5. I think Apple is right. All you have to do is look at things like Vista and tablet PCs compared to iPhones and MacBooks to know the “other guys” don’t usually quite get it. Netbooks are a fad. We’ve seen them before…they are just cheaper and more powerful versions of “sub-notebooks” or “mini-notebooks”. Bad idea then and bad idea now. The keyboard? Fahgetaboutit. I use an Atek OnBoard Travel Keyboard even for my laptop…a Netbook doesn’t have any change of having a moderately usable keyboard. Seems like the folks who came up with the idea of Netbooks forgot about the input side of input/output.

  6. Well, now that we’ve had a Chinese tech commit suicide over having lost a recent Apple prototype, is there any way left at all to believe that Apple isn’t pushing for *something* seriously new and different?

    Why bother even tracking what Apple employees say about anything but concrete specs of their own released products? I would love an Apple MID or netbook but I don’t think that statements like this tell us anything one way or the other about their plans. Apple will dismiss the very idea of anything up and until the very day that they announce that they’re selling one.

    I have an exercise for y’all. Go out and find an Apple employee making respectful and positive on the record remarks about any market segment they don’t sell into as of that very day. Good luck with that.

  7. >and you’re better off buying an iPhone or iPod touch.

    Years of chronic masturbation are making me slowly go blind and while the 9-10 inch screen is small, its sure better than trying to read chicken scratch on a 3 inch screen.

    >says “some customers, maybe many”

    Translation: we dont make it, it must suck.

    Look, I like Porsches but its a niche market that is too expensive for me so I really dont care what Porsche or Apple have to say in their respective fields.

  8. Apple’s Tim Cook did do some hatin’ on netbooks, but the company’s analyst call was today, Tuesday, July 21, 2009 — not “yesterday”. The article on which Liliputing based its post and to which it linked appeared in Forbes in April. It obviously did not cover today’s call.

    For timely coverage of just what was said today, try .

    The most likely product would appear to be a larger iPod Touch, not a phone but with wireless capability beyond the current iPT, and sized to compete with Kindle and netbooks.

    For those who insist on a portable hardware keyboard, Apple could simply point to its existing keyboard. At about 11″ x 4 3/8″ it is already smaller than the average keyboard, is quite thin and sturdy (and contains a USB hub). A wireless version is available. Maybe keyboards will be a third-party opportunity, perhaps integrated with a case.

  9. Apple already make and sell their counterpart to a netbook. . . It’s the MacBook Air. Their approach to an ultra-portable computer didn’t accept a scrunched little screen, keyboard and trackpad, so they went for super-thin instead. (It does make compromises for the sake of portability, though. . . No CD/DVD drive, no Firewire ports, only one USB port, a 5400 RPM hard drive.)

    And it’s not cheap. But then, we know Apple isn’t in the business of cheap. That’s their strategy and it’s worked okay for them so far.

  10. I guess technically you don’t have a cramped keyboard if you don’t have a keyboard at all! 😉

    Perhaps netbook keyboards are another world of pain that Apple is trying to save us from… you know like BD support. 😀

  11. Apple knows what it is doing. On eof the major selling points of netbooks is the affordability. Apple doesn’t do that, period. So where is the market for a $750 netbook? Sony hasn’t had a lot of success with their netbook and it at least has the exotic hardware to justify the cost.

    If Apple sold a netbook it would have the hardware and build quality of a $500 ASUS or HP netbook and sell for $750 or more minimum to meet their profit margin requirements. So just how much market would there be for that product? Right, there would only be abuse about the pricing.

    1. You are severely underestimating the appeal of a 10″ iPod touch. 😉

  12. I disagree, I think there is definately a market for a device with a good-sized touchscreen (somewhere around 9″) capable of running web based applications. Apple isn’t far off on their comments, I’ve cursed the small screen and sluggish performance of my Netbook pretty much daily since I purchased it. I would consider it, especially if it runs OS X. I think the cost will need to be around $599, which is definately possible. You could also use a bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo inexpensively if you want to type, that wouldn’t take up much more room than a typical netbook.

  13. But for only $100 you will be able to get a $12 external keyboard
    with the Apple branding on it – who said there isn’t money to be made?

Comments are closed.