Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guessimating Apple's Netbook Strategy

We know Steve Jobs will never release a netbook for the sake of doing it.  Nor is Apple's answer to the netbook the iPhone.  A couple of weeks or so ago, folks started comparing iPhone shipments to netbook shipments.  You'll have to excuse those people.  It's the Holidays.  We're in a recession.  We were all dying for news, rumors...anything from Apple or Mac related (little did we know that last week, Apple would stir up controversy with their Jobs-no-show-at-Macworld announcement).

If you're looking for a netbook running OS X, MSI Wind remains the best solution.  For those will are willing to wait, this is Apple's $600-$700 netbook (I've reduced the price by $100 since November - but I can't go lower to $500 because it will be too close to the iPod Touch 32GB model).  Let's call it "iDevice".

  • iDevice will take the form of a tablet.  Not clam shell like netbooks.  No keyboard.
  • Run iPhone/iPod Touch OS.
  • It'll do what it's suppose to:  play movies, do 90% of all Internet and computing related tasks adequately (e-mailing, surfing, writing, runs apps.  It will be able to do everything an iPhone can do.  But there should be applications specific also to iDevice.  
  • 6-8" screen size.  Possible a 10" model as well.  If it looks anything like a bigger iPhone, it'll be closer to 8" and/or 10" model (I had previously stated there will not be a 10" model.  I have since changed my position).  $600 for the 6-8" model and $700 for the 10" model.  
  • Battery will not be user-replaceable - this is one is obvious.
  • iPod
  • There will be accessories specifically branded for iDevice.  As with anything Apple, it will cost you.  For example, an Apple specific keyboard  may cost $100 even though it's not much more different from the wireless Bluetooth keyboard for the Macs.
  • Runs on chips related to Apple's recent acquisition and investments in chip companies.  I'll be honest in saying that I don't know much about chips beyond Ghz and cores.  But from the talk of graphics performance and power efficiency, it does make sense.  We are no talking about Intel's Atom.  And given how powerful the iPhone is, there is might even be a need beyond using what is already powering the iPhone.
  • This may be wishful thinking on my part but it's possible Apple may allow for e-ink to save power for reading.  I doubt this since Apple has yet to made a move on ebooks.  
  • Wi-Fi.  Maybe 3G for tethering with iPhone but it's possible that a deal in the making with ATT for a special rate for Apple.  However, may people will be happy with Wi-Fi so I think 3G access is not likely.  After all, Apple has not offer it in the Macbooks.  Of course, with 3G, ATT may be willing to subsidize Apple's netbook
  • 32GB.  Maybe more.  64GB.
  • Additional Multi-Touch gestures.
Now, let me get back to iDevice accessories.  This is where Apple clearly has an advantage over other device makers and brands.  It can command a premium and leverage it's popularity and cool factor in creating a micro-economy for the iDevice very much the same way it did with the iPod brand.  With likely millions to be served, iDevice accessorizing will help Apple add hundreds of millions into its already big cash pile.  
And if we see the iDevice at all, I'm putting it closer 2nd quarter of 2009 (or maybe just before the back-to-school rush) than the first quarter of 2009.  Apple is going to be busy next year with the Mac refreshes, a new OS (Snow Leopard), and potentially more Macbook updates (bring the Macbook Air and 17" model closer in line to the new unibody Macbooks), and third generation of the iPhone.  
So, no netbooks as some analysts hope but something even better.  iDevice, like my dream Mac, the Mac Hybrid , are just my own speculations and please to do attribute this to anything more than not.  I did not get the specs above from a "secret source" or off some Chinese accessory maker's site.  It's just fun guessimation on my part.  
There you have it.  Apple's answer to the netbook craze.  Let me what you think.

Note: WSJ's All Things Digital also believes it'll be closer to $600.  It's entirely possible.  It's not a Mac but the iDevice is an exension of Apple's current mobile platform.  They've got a clam-shell looking device in their post.  And they still believe it'll be at Macworld 2009.  

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