Dow Jones and others report rumors that Taiwanese makers are preparing to ship a 10" Apple netbook in the second half of 2009. Speculation is that these will be touch-screen equipped machines.
On the Wintel side, low priced netbooks are the only growth area left. But the design and price points chosen by Wintel netbook makers (particularly the off-brand Taiwanese new entrants) doesn’t tell us what Apple will do.
Of course the new Apple machine will run OS X (their only OS), have Wi-Fi and work with iTunes. However, there are some not so obvious design choices:
- Is it a large iPhone or a small MacBook?
- Is it designed for standing up or sitting down?
- Does it have a keyboard?
- Does it work with the iPhone App Store?
- Does it connect to a phone network?
- Is it priced like a netbook ($400-$800) or like a MacBook ($1000+)?
The fundamental puzzle for me is that if it’s a small, light, slow and cheap laptop, how does it avoid cannibalizing the MacBook Air — a thin, light, slow and expensive laptop? Apple (especially under Steve Jobs) is loath to cannibalize profitable products, and with the penetration rate of MacBook Air among our (not so rich) students, I suspect the MBA has been very profitable indeed.