Apple Dismisses Netbook Trend

An Apple executive on Wednesday lashed out against netbooks, calling the small and light laptops unusable.

Netbooks have cramped keyboards, small screens, "junky" hardware and bad software, said Tim Cook, chief operating officer of Apple, during a fiscal second-quarter earnings conference call on Wednesday. They don't offer the "consumer experience" that Apple wants to offer through its Macintosh hardware.

"It's not a space ... we're interested in," Cook said. "It's a stretch to call them a personal computer."

People who want to use e-mail or surf the Web can instead buy products such as Apple's iPhone or an iPod Touch, Cook said.

Netbooks are small and low-cost laptops that are designed for people to run basic applications such as Web surfing. Netbooks are priced between US$300 and $500, with screens anywhere between 7 inches and 12 inches.

Apple's cheapest laptop costs $999, and it would rather focus on offering quality through its Mac products, Cook said.

In the fiscal second quarter, Apple's desktop sales rebounded with new products, and its lower-end laptop sales picked up as prices dropped. But despite those gains, Apple saw its overall PC shipments fall. It sold 2.22 million Macintosh computers, a 3 percent decline from a year earlier, the company said on Wednesday.

"We feel great about our performance, and the pipeline looks fantastic," Cook said.

Apple reacted strongly to netbooks because the increased adoption of that type of product is annoying them, said Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"If they didn't bother about [netbooks], they wouldn't comment about it," Kay said. Netbooks may not be ideal today, but there is plenty of room for them to mature, he said.

"They get in as a poor cousin like any disruptive technology, but the quality will improve," Kay said.

Netbooks are already being considered the bright spot in an otherwise tumbling PC industry. In the first quarter of 2009, which roughly corresponds to the quarter Apple reported on Wednesday, worldwide PC shipments totaled 63.4 million, according to IDC. That was down 7.1 percent from a year earlier. Some vendors, including Hewlett-Packard and Acer, saw shipments grow, partly due to sustained demand for netbooks, according to IDC.

Apple doesn't worry about the ebb and flow of PC shipments, but wants to develop a reputation around quality of products, Cook said.

"Cycles come and cycles go," Cook said. "What we are about is making the best computers in the world."

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