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.

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16 replies on “Will Apple build a netbook, and what would it look like?”

  1. they should make one and put iwork on it for free!!!!! I love my macbook, but i want to get a small netbook for travel

  2. While I’m rather addicted to gadgets and would love to buy a netbook for my commute to work I’m struggling to justify this over and above my iPhone. At the moment I can send emails, play games and browse the web all with a device that fits in my pocket and has a day’s worth of battery life. I quite like the soft keyboard (I’m a bit dyslexic so the suggested word feature is great) but there is a landscape version with a spellchecker for less than $2. I’m also a fan of the instant on feature (you just press the silver button at the top) and the always connected nature. If I get bored I can always use the ebook reader (eReader) or watch a film.

    How well do the current crop of netbooks deal with hibernate rather than booting from cold?

    (yes I’ve become a bit of a fanboy as my MacBookPro and iPhone have been a great replacement for my X61t)

  3. Apple is definitely working on a netbook, you just won’t see it until after 10.6 ships. It’s no coincidence that the primary goal of this dev cycle is to reduce the storage footprint, also coinciding with cheaper and faster solid state storage. This is definitely going to become a reality. Apple will be slow in getting it to market, but they’re definitely going to do it right.

  4. Wont happen because they cant charge double for the exact same components that their customers sells because money is not an object for the cool customers (Eff that ‘it just works’. I have yet to buy a laptop runnnig Win or Linux that doesnt work when I turn it on. Stop propagating their BS.) and slick marketing.

    Besides the prices of netbooks should settle between 250-300$ very quickly.
    The Acer One is on special at Futureshop this week for 299$.

    And all that is going to be moot if Tech Crunch goes ahead with their 200$ tablet.

    I make great use of your netbooks but see the need for a tablet when I just sit around at soccer, judo and basketball practice for the kids. Its hard to concentrate to get any work done so I end up just reading stuff while listening to podcasts.
    Sub 200$ means instead of one netbook I can put a tablet in the trunk of each car (since I carry my media on a 16GB USB key).

    I want prices to go down. Not start creeping up to the thousand dollar range.
    $299 Acer One does the job well and is the perfect size (ok, Id like a 10)
    but a 249$ One would be even better.]

  5. “I just don’t see Apple catering to the folks who are snapping up $400 low-to-medium performance machines.” is absoluatley right, if you do a feature for feature comparision like CPU, memor y and hard disks for ALL macs, they always come out more expensive. Apple aren’t about to release a dirt cheap netbook.


  6. I honestly don’t think Apple is even looking into the netbook route. They have their own vision of the future of computing, and it involves the iPhone and iPod touch whose content they can control and get mucho dinero.

    Plus, how different would an Apple netbook be, since all of them have the Atom or some other underpowered CPU? I don’t see Apple going the netbook route in the forseeable future…

    1. If Apple decides to target the CORPORATE rather than consumer market then it would be very successful with a MacNook. The “Air” is nice but already out of date, and TBH, too big. It might be thin, light, and designer cool, but it is still too big for road warriors.

      As is their current 13″ MacBook range.

      IF Apple could squeeze the format down to 11″ then would have a winner on their hands. Esp. since VMware Fusion, or Bootcamp, allows native Windows and Windows apps to run on the machines sans problems.

  7. When are one of the many Netbook manufacturers going to wake up, be more selective with their components and make a Netbook that needs almost no mods to install OS X…
    i.e. all the components are matched to the drivers that would be on a standard OS X DVD. WiFi, Sound, Bluetooth, Graphics etc… out of the box.

    They wont be able to keep up with demand! I dream on…

  8. I’ve been wondering about this lately too. I think a $599 MacBook Mini would be wildly popular, but it could hurt sales of the $1099 MacBook too much (which surely has a better profit margin, real dollars and percentage than a netbook). In the past Apple has been the first to show off new Intel chips, maybe they could stick a dual-core Atom into a notebook and sell it for closer to $800. Another product that Apple has that really needs a refresh is the Mac mini, and something like the Eee Box could be a newer and even smaller replacement. At the same time they could probably eliminate the Apple TV console and gear this new mini towards media center usage. Just my thoughts here, I don’t really know anything 🙂

    1. totally. apple shot their ultraportable wad last winter, and it’s the macbook air. they’re not going to start selling it (in any version) at “netbook” prices. it’s a fashion statement, above all.

  9. i posted it over on jkontherun, but ill post it here as well.

    i suspect that if apple does anything with the macbook, its to turn it into a large iphone or portable appletv.

    strap a iphone like interface on top of the existing osx, integrate iworks into the whole and you basically have a netbook.

    or a typewriter with web and media capabilities. something i have said most people would be happy with…

  10. i think this is crazy for a number of reasons. the macbook sells better than the macbook pro, and i can’t see them eliminating it. i would sooner believe that the pro would be eliminated. if a netbook comes, i think it would have to be an addition to the lineup. other versions of this rumor claim it is the basic macbook that will drop to $800. it’s not that far to go, and would further increase sales of an item already sought after by students.

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