Several weeks ago Apple, Inc. unveiled its hot new line of laptop computers to much rejoicing and hullabaloo. These were gorgeous machines with respectable spec sheets and for the first time the entire Apple notebook line had sturdy all-aluminum casing. Not all was well in the Mac community, however. There were some who had wanted Apple to release a notebook in the emerging 'netbook' market, and they were sorely disappointed.
Netbooks are an emerging market, a market so new in fact that my copy of OpenOffice still throws a red squiggle under the word. They are essentially a bare-bones laptop with a very small footprint - usually a 8 or 10 inch screen. They are meant for browsing the Internet and word processing and not much else. They aren't for gaming, storing your entire media library, or multi-tasking between seven different applications. They usually don't have webcams, CD drives, or other fancy-shmancy add-ons. They are also really cheap -usually under $500 - which is their main draw. Some would say that they have a low price point, but those people are idiots. A word of advice to them – there is no need to use the word 'price point' when 'price' conveys the exact same idea. You are not going to ask your friend what the price point of the new toaster he purchased was. No, you're going to ask him how much it cost, or how much he paid for it.
So these netbooks are really cheap and are apparently selling like hotcakes. Well, hotcakes with screens. And some “loyal” – I use that word lightly here – Apple fans think that Apple should produce a laptop for this market. (One could I suppose argue that they just wanted the Mac Air for cheaper.) They think that by releasing a sub-$800 laptop, that Apple would make a lot of money and gain new customers. This is a misguided wish for several reasons.
Reason 1: Apple is a respected brand that has always made higher-end consumer products. Their laptops typically are released at a price of around $1200 going all the way up to their Pro line of $3500 or so. Historically they make products for the artistic professionals – movie makers, photographers, designers, etc. The business world uses Windows and all the art is made on Macs. (This accounts the disproportionate amount of Macs you see in movies and TV shows.)
Reason 2: Apple puts a lot of work into designing their products, and it shows. People don't realize that making good design is usually expensive and requires a lot of hard work. Somebody has to pay for all of that gorgeous design that sets apart Macs from the rest of the computer world.
Reason 3: Most Mac users are extremely loyal. (Since 2002 I have owned five different Macs, and that was not because I needed them. I just liked having them around.) What this translates to is a very active second-hand Mac market. Macs have famously high resale value, which happened to be one of my considerations when buying my MacBook the weekend it was released. I bought my Mac for around $1500 three years ago and WILL be able to resell it for 700-800 dollars if I choose to sell it even now, almost three years later. When my mom needed a new laptop, I advised her to buy a used Aluminum PowerBook rather than a new MacBook because it was essentially the same machine, only $300 cheaper. Mac fans who whined about no $500 notebook failed to see that they already had one – the 12' G4 PowerBook. Sure it doesn't have the newest Mac OS or other nice features, but hey, it has a wireless and can run OS X, right? That's really all the average netbook user would need. For even cheaper you could buy a used iBook and still have OS X.
By releasing a netbook Apple would not only risk jeopardizing their respected professional brand, but they would also risk sabotaging their second-hand market that keeps enthusiasts abated until they decide to buy another new Apple machine. They would also risk having to release a machine that was not iconic in its design, like nearly every Apple machine has been. Way to go Apple, for continuously sticking to your guns and releasing great computers at reasonable prices.