Apple: netbooks suck, we rock


23 Jan 2009

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While Apple was busy announcing its best financial quarter ever (net profit of US$1.6bn!) it decided to rub salt in the wounds and tell netbook manufacturers that their products are a steaming pile of weak.

“Right now we think the products there are inferior and will not provide the experience to customers that they’re happy with,” said COO Tim Cook at yesterday’s conference call.

“The products in there are principally based on hardware that’s much less powerful than we think customers want, software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displays, etc,” he continued. Ouch.

So is Apple missing out a huge opportunity? After all, according to Wired, the ultra-mobile device market, which includes netbooks, is set to hit over 200 million units by 2013, with 10 million units shipped in 2008.

Well, Eoghan McCabe, CEO of web apps firm Contrast, says that one thing Apple is good at is “taking its time, watching competitors make mistakes, learning what consumers want and waiting for the right time to hit the market”.

“They were late to the MP3 player game, which they now dominate. They were late to smart phone game; in 2006 people said they were oblivious to the opportunities available in that market. They sold 11 million iPhones in the past 6 months.”

Not to worry: Cook said of the netbook market that Apple is “watching that space”, so if we see a netbook any time soon from the Cupertino cool kids presumably it will kick ass.

“Apple’s product strategy across the board is to release very boutique, high-end products that are priced accordingly,” said Aaron McKenna, the country manager for Komplett.ie.

“In the context of their strategy, they’re right in saying that netbooks on the market are inferior – for their purposes,” he added.

McCabe agrees: “Apple is right; the netbook experience isn’t up to scratch yet. There are a lot of trade-offs. If Apple releases a netbook, any compromises will be worth it.”

McKenna says that when Apple releases a netbook it will likely come in at a far-higher price point than what we’re seeing at the moment for the likes of the EeePC or Acer Aspire One.

“But of course it will be a MacNetBook, with all the trimmings to justify the price,” he said. We agree.

By Marie Boran