Tag Archives: Netbook

Why people were wrong about the Apple netbook (and what it tells us about punditry)

Poor old David Carnoy. You write a post about a conversation between you and your brother in law Ken where you talk about Apple’s need to get a netbook, and you end up in Internet pundit infamy.

Let’s take a look at the “conversation”, piece by piece.

“Ken: “Apple really needs to do a Netbook.”
Me: “Yes, now. It’s the biggest growth category in laptops. They’re missing out on a big opportunity to take Windows’ share away.”

Mistake number one: A focus on market share. Even in 2009, it was obvious this wasn’t Apple’s focus . In its lean years, the company had learned that you could survive happily on market share of a single digit, and that what was important was simply profit. If you were profitable, you lived. If you weren’t, it didn’t matter how much share you had.

Ken: “Apple keeps saying it doesn’t want to go near the low-end and make crappy notebooks with low margins. Would tarnish the brand, hurt the bottom line.”
Me: “They’re lying. They know they have to go there.”

Mistake number two: Thinking Apple will make crappy products to grab share. Apple’s made its fair share of duffers over the years, but since the end of the Amelio era they’ve tended to be few and far between – and I can’t think of a single example where the product has been crap because Apple has tried to create something cheap with a low margin. Apple just doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, the company focuses on building the best things it can, and if it can’t make something “good enough” at a specific price point, it just doesn’t enter that part of the market.

The best example of this is the way Apple introduced new variants of the iPod. The original iPod was expensive, by the MP3 player standards of the day, but was also significantly better than anything else on the market. When the company extended the range and hit lower price points, it didn’t do so with something crap: the iPod mini was a better iPod, and cheaper. The iPod nano was much higher quality than its competitors. None of the iPods ever felt like “me too” products. None of them ever felt cheap. And none of them were crappy products with low margins.

Ken: “Agree.”
Me: “So they slap a little design flair on the thing, put one model out for $599 and another for $699. Sure, the Windows version would cost you $350-$450, but I’d have no problem paying the Apple premium on one of these.”

Mistake Number Three: Thinking design is something you “slap on”. There’s a phrase for this view of design: “putting lipstick on a pig”. It’s not what Apple does – or at least, it’s not what the Apple of 2014 does. It used to be what it did, back in the early 1990’s, and it’s one of the things which almost killed it. The likelihood of Apple starting to just put lipstick on pigs again is about the same as pigs growing wings and flying.

Ken: “A lot of people would pay $599 for an Apple Netbook.”
Me: “No one’s buying the Macbook Air at $1,800.”
Ken: “I wouldn’t say no one.”
Me: “OK, but it’s sort of the Apple TV of laptops. It’s just not that relevant. Most people would prefer buying a more powerful notebook that weighs a little more for a grand.”
Ken: “I agree. I almost bought an Air when it first came out, but I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger.” [Note: Ken uses a MacBook Pro but he wants a Netbook for nonbusiness travel].

Mistake Number Four: Failing to understand how Apple pioneers product categories. Sometimes, Apple will produce something which is a little expensive, but which effectively reshapes or creates an entire product category. In the case of the MacBook Air, that category was what we now call ultrabooks: something expensive, high-margin, but thin and light.

Me: “Apple always talks about design–and they do have great designers–but what people want now is cheap. As I said, this thing doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I’d rather see them keep things simple and elegant and keep the cost down to $599.””

Mistake Number Five: Believing mature markets are solely price-sensitive. Where to go with this one? It’s so obviously false that it almost beggars belief. No matter how tough the market, there’s always someone buying a £50,000 Mercedes rather than a functionally-equivalent £20,000 family car. And there’s always someone who will pay $2000 more to get exactly the model they want, even though it’s functionally the same as the cheaper alternative.

The thing which makes Carnoy’s post brilliant is how it manages to encapsulate every way of misunderstanding what Apple is about, while also misinterpreting the signs of the overall market. It’s not that Carnoy was an idiot – I’m sure he wasn’t, and isn’t – it’s simply that everything in his post illustrates how easy it is to get tech punditry wrong when talking about Apple. This is a company which has grown because it defied expectations, bucked trends, and followed its own path. If you want to write about Apple, this is the first thing you should always bear in mind.

Grumpy old men of tech redux

Trevor Pott, over at El Reg, makes an early entry into the “Doesn’t like this new-fangled world” competition with his piece on how “Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus“. Pott’s demand of a machine – all-day battery life, a multi-tasking OS – aren’t outlandish, but his stalwart rejection of, basically, anything that isn’t a netbook running Linux marks him out as someone who really doesn’t understand the new world of “just works” computing.

Consider, for example, his rejection of the Chromebook as an option:

“Google could make Android a serious contender as a ‘good enough’ netbook OS in a very short timeframe. The web giant won’t because it views Android as its touch-based consumptive tablet and phone OS, and ChromeOS as the desktop replacement. ChromeOS is entirely reliant on internet connectivity and keeps you trapped into doing everything using SaaS apps; great for Google because it can ruthlessly invade your privacy in order to sell more advertisements. Bad for us because it cripples the OS in order to achieve this goal.”

Where to begin with this? Aside from the “ChromeOS is entirely reliant on internet connectivity” error (it’s not), saying that ChromeOS “keeps you trapped into doing everything using SaaS apps” is a bit like saying Windows “keeps you trapped into doing everything with Windows apps”. And there’s no compulsion on you to use Chromebooks with Google services: mine happily works with iCloud and Microsoft Online services (yes, including Office web apps). 

Using apps written with HTML/JavaScript isn’t lock in, particularly if you choose your software providers wisely. If you want data portability, choose a software company that provides easy ways out

And of course, the iPad also fits Pott’s bill… 

The missing piece of the iPad puzzle

Ian Fogg on why “Cloud” is the Missing Ingredient for a “Third Device” iPad Strategy:

“For iPad to really fly, preferences, usernames, passwords, and content should transfer automatically across the different devices that Apple intends consumers to use together: PC, phone, and iPad. Apple should use a consumer cloud to do it. Consumers should not have to think, all of this should just work. Tethered sync is a twentieth century product feature.”

Ian is right, and I’d go further and say that syncing files of all types should be part of the iPad experience.

With an iPad with 64GB of storage, there’s no reason why every file on my iDisk can’t be stored on it and synced wirelessly. I could then access documents with iWork and other applications, and the iPad would be a real netbook replacement. If I have to be tethered to my Mac to get files in sync, that will be a very much second-rate experience.

(Image from AJStarks)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

There’s these great cut-down computers, right…

Daring Fireball: Maybe Instead of Two Cars, You Just Need a Car and a Bicycle:

“The idea of a computer that does a lot less — leaving out even things you consider essential, because you can still do those things on your other, primary computer — is liberating. That’s the opportunity, and that’s the idea behind Chrome OS and Litl and even Android and iPhone OS.”

The idea of it is liberating, as I’ve found out with my experiences with netbooks over the years. The problem is that while the idea of it is liberating, the actual reality of it is less so.

While my MacBook Pro takes up a larger bag, I’ve carried it around with me much more lately because it really doesn’t weigh that much more. And the rest of the time, I have my iPhone – a constantly-connected device which lets me take notes, write short documents.

Chrome OS is an interesting experiment, but in the long term the trend is still towards more power on the desktop – and in the lap.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is this the end of the road for Hackintosh netbooks?

Oh dear. According to OS X Daily Apple is effectively killing off support for Intel’s Atom processor in OS X 10.6.2.

The biggest consequence of this is, obviously, that anyone who wants to roll their own netbook running OS X is going to have to stick to either 10.5 or 10.6.1 – or, for the hardcore, hack future versions of OS X to run a stock 10.0 kernel.

Of course, Apple is under no obligation at all to support hardware it doesn’t use. But some will undoubtedly take this as a sign that Apple wants to kill off the Hackintosh community.

I don’t buy that, for a couple of reasons. First, the netbook market is probably the one which Apple has the least actual interest in. When someone runs OS X on a £300 netbook, they’re not doing it to replace a potential Mac purchase. Lost revenue to Apple from netbooks is probably as close to a rounding error as you can get.

Second, no sane company would tinker with the kernel of its operating system just to disable something of no commercial consequence. It’s one thing playing around with iTunes to stop the Palm Pre syncing. It’s quite another to mess around with code which you absolutely, 100%, need to be reliable.

It is, however, a shame.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like support for Atom is back. Which rather puts the kibosh on the conspiracy theories, I think.

UPDATE 2: And it seems like it’s definitely out again. Oh well.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Microsoft drops European Windows plan, so where next for upgrades?

PC Advisor:

“It’s unclear how Microsoft will deal with customers who have already pre-ordered Windows 7E and paid the upgrade price but were told they would receive a full-package edition.

Ironically, the users who may be most affected by the return of two-tier pricing are those who use Macs, but want to run Windows in a virtual machine. While PC owners typically upgrade from an older OS to a new – and so can get by with the cheaper upgrades – users who run Windows in a virtual environment often create the ‘machines’ from scratch, and so require a full-package version.”

One of the ironic things about Microsoft throwing a bit of a tantrum and not selling upgrade versions was that it actually simplified the product line and made it easier to understand. I pre-ordered a copy of Win7 which I’ll use on my MacBook Pro’s Boot Camp partition, because it was a full version – otherwise, I’d have stuck with XP (all I use it for is a couple of legacy apps and one game).

In fact, I was about to order a second copy for my netbook – but we’ll see whether it’s still going to be a full version rather than an upgrade. If it’s an upgrade, I won’t bother. Ubuntu Netbook Remix or Moblin will go on there instead.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ballmer predicts Windows PC 2010 = Macintosh 2008

More from the analyst’s meeting with Steve Ballmer:

“Ballmer told analysts there would be a new class of “ultra-thin” PCs” — or high-end netbooks –coming this year that would combine the light weight of netbooks with high-power and high-performance of traditional PCs.

‘When I talk to many of our customers, they say ‘I love the Netbook but can I get one with a bigger screen?” Ballmer said.

Those new ultra-thin PCs, the first of which will be coming later this year and, presumably running Windows 7, won’t be as cheap as $299 or $399 netbooks, Ballmer admitted, but they will combine netbooks’ portability, with some unnamed but higher-sounding prices that will make shareholders, analysts and Microsoft happy.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that someone already makes something rather like that. Maybe it would be better to buy now, rather than wait to see what the other guys come up with?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Chrome OS is not a threat to Windows « GartenBlog

“Launching a new PC OS is not easy even if your target is a cloud. Targeting netbooks in 2010 isn’t the answer either. As I’ve pointed out, netbook are laptops with a pivotal axis of price. We’re seeing netbooks with 12″ screens, full sized keyboards and 300gb of storage. Does anyone think that netbooks aren’t going to evolve further? Consumers have overwhelmingly rejected Linux flavored netbooks for Windows capable machines that they could actually accomplish things on, such as run PC applications.” 

While I disagree about netbooks being only about the price, Michael is completely correct to point out that customers have generally rejected Linux-based netbooks in favour of Windows ones. Although I think there’s a lot of mileage in improving the Linux experience on netbooks (and Moblin/UNR are already ahead here), given the choice I would expect the majority of people to buy Windows.

Of course, the key question is whether they’ll continue to have that choice, given Microsoft’s transition to Windows 7. But given the date of Chrome OS’ release, which isn’t until some time next year, we’ll know the answer to that question before Chrome comes out.

Another thing to note: Chrome (the browser) has had almost no success in gaining market share. And a whole OS is a much more difficult sell to consumers than a browser. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on Chrome OS getting more than single-digit market share any time soon.

Posted via web from Ian Betteridge’s lifestream

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]