I feel real sad to say this, but I am seriously thinking about skipping any Apple Macintosh purchases I had planned for this years. Which means that I will also be recommending that my customers stop buying Apple computers, until such a date when Apple decides to wake up and smell the new coffee.
There is an obvious reason why Acer has all of a sudden become the hottest computer manufacturer on the planet and it has nothing to do with the dictionary definition of the word netbook. It does have everything to do with the price people are willing to pay for a computer though. Acer and Asus (plus a few others) have shown the world that it is possible to make a laptop/notebook/netbook (whatever you want to call it) computer that will do everything we normally need to get on with our lives (whether at home, in the classroom, or on the road), for under $500. Not only is it possible for under $500 dollars, but for even as low as $300.
And just in case you haven’t been paying attention to the computer news lately, this is not science fiction. We are talking go down the road and buy one right now.
And where is Apple at? They are still trying to convince us that the lowest price a laptop computer can be sold at is $999. Their latest announcement regarding switching to the Atom processor (the one used in all the “netbooks”) for the Mac Mini (basically a headless computer in a cigar box) and selling it for the current Mac Mini price ($500-$700), is also not very encouraging.
Why do I say this? Well if the Mac Mini with the Atom processor has to sell for from $500-$700, it only stands to reason that a netbook with the same motherboard and processor has to sell for at least $200 more. Which would mean that the least expensive netbook we are going to see from Apple will cost around $700.
Apple will probably make a big deal about building a better quality netbook, etc., etc., but I’m afraid they will have already missed the boat, along with Sony, who are currently giving massive discounts and trying to figure out how to get on board, before the next tide comes in.
OK, I’m going to make a prediction: Apple is going to offer their Mac Mini computer as an internet media connection and home entertainment base unit, to fit in seamlessly with their Apple TV and Time Capsule, this announcement will come very soon and delivery will be early in the second quarter. They will still be off the mark from what consumers want, but they don’t have a choice. Well actually they do have a choice (the new HP Media Smart Server is a good example of how to do it right), but admitting they made a mistake (actually a number of mistakes) and starting from scratch is not something Apple does very well.
They might also surprise us all and announce a netbook at the same time, but they will probably make the mistake (the following is total conjecture, so please don’t bet the farm on it) of coming out with a tablet computer instead, which will be too expensive, too awkward to use, and in time be remembered as one of Apple’s all time biggest mistakes. Tablet computers are only good for very few applications, like inventory control and Space Shuttle check lists, or they could be mounted on Segway scooters.
Once the tablet nonsense has died down, which I guess will take around three months, Apple should be ready to launch their first netbook (probably priced at $799), just in time for the new school year. Unfortunately by then, almost all colleges in the US will be recommending the Acer and Asus netbooks for all their students and at least a dozen universities will be supplying (or requiring) them for all their new incoming freshmen.
I hope that Apple proves me wrong and comes out with an under $500 netbook at their next media event, but I kind of doubt it. If Apple come out with a lightweight, full featured, inexpensive computer now, the MacBook Air will be toast. Sony has the same problem with their Vaio TZ.
The question is, who will pay up to five times the price for a nicer looking (and in theory better built) computer, that will go obsolete just as fast, as the one you can get for $400.