Netbooks gut PC sales: Good or bad for Apple?

If there's one thing that pops into my head when people say that Apple should, nay, must enter the netbook market, it's this: last October, Steve Jobs said, "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that." Nevertheless, people are still convinced that something's in the works, or that netbooks are the wave of the future and Apple will find itself forced to come on board. PC sales are collapsing along with the rest of the economy, even as netbook sales skyrocket. One logical conclusion is that netbooks, low-margin as they are, are the industry's best hope as we head into a recession.

Except that Mac sales, while sagging a bit, are in much better shape than the rest of the industry. Is Apple recession-proof? Or are sales of its higher-margin computers (which are already higher-margin than comparable PCs) just not being cannibalized by netbooks? It makes sense to me that someone who buys a $350 Eee PC may have been considering, say, a $600 Dell instead, but probably didn't even have a $1,300 Macbook on his radar.

Nevertheless, an analyst emerged from a meeting with Apple COO Tim Cook declaring that the latter had ideas for a netbook, a revelation shocking enough to merit a headline even though there's no indication of what those ideas might be. If such a thing emerges, I'm holding fast to the idea that it will be a souped up iPhone or iPod Touch, rather than a stripped-down Macbook.

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