April 28, 2009, 6:27 PM — Netbooks run counter to the general trend of progressively larger and more powerful computers, but they are nonetheless gaining popularity. And why not? They're cheap--and for ordinary people who don't need to run power applications, more than adequate for day-to-day use. And in today's economy, cheap is good.
But last week, Apple's COO Tim Cook disputed my theory of netbooks gaining market share, calling them "junky" and unusable. I'm not surprised. Apple's philosophy runs completely counter to the netbook trend. "Inexpensive notebook" is not something we usually associate with Apple. But Cook went a little overboard when he said "It's a stretch to call them a personal computer." Of course, the netbook is a personal computer, and a good one, at that. But Cook suggested that people who want to use a computer to surf the web or check email should buy an iPhone instead. What Cook doesn't realize is that people who buy netbooks are interested in saving money--not in spending a fortune every month for an iPhone contract.
It seems to me that Apple is being so quick to criticize the netbook because they feel threatened. The continuing evolution of the netbook is going to bring more power and more portability--and maybe even telephony--and that's going to eat into Apple's low end. Interesting to note also that for 2Q, Apple's overall PC shipments fell slightly, with lower-end Apple laptops representing the largest gain. Shouldn't that tell Apple something? Sure, people may want Apples, but they don't want to pay big money for them. Apple should pay attention to the netbook trend instead of dismissing it so vigorously.