There has been much speculation about a supposed new Apple netbook computer, and the rumors have once again re-emerged. Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the current MacBook Air would seem to fit most definitions of netbook, except for one. Why does Apple need another?
Apple may be--probably is--working on something, but it probably won't be a real netbook anymore than my iPhone is a full-fledged computer.
The MacBook Air weighs three pounds, has a 13.3-inch screen, a backlit keyboard, a choice of 120GB SATA or 128GB solid-state drive, 2GB RAM, wireless networking, a USB port, and a great operating system. It's a near-perfect netbook, except for one thing: It's way too expensive at its starting price of $1,799.
The Air may be light, but so will your wallet be after you have purchased one. The $2,499 high-end model is about nine times more expensive than some "true" netbooks. Talk about rarefied atmospheres!
So it's no wonder people are clamoring for Apple to create a more conventional netbook. But the current rumors have Apple creating what sounds a lot like an iPod Touch with a big touch screen but no keyboard. If that is what emerges, the MacBook Air will still be Apple's only actual netbook.
There is nothing wrong with Apple offering a device with a 7-to-9-inch touch screen, perhaps for $600, if the speculation proves out. I just wouldn't call it a netbook, though it might be a lot of fun to watch a movie on and could even be a handy way to show a Keynote presentation to a very small audience. A wireless keyboard could give it some work functionality, but it still wouldn't be a netbook.
One of the primary qualifications of a netbook, I think, is that it should be optimized for work, not entertainment. When I think about netbooks I think about a computer that offers acceptable functionality for specific work-related purposes at a price that makes the computer almost disposable. Once the price tag hits about $600, I am thinking of a real notebook instead.
Ultimately, though--even if all of the current rumors are true--Apple still won't have a real netbook in its line-up.
David Coursey has given up on very small, incredibly expensive laptops because they do not last very long in his rough-and-tumble world. Write him using the contact form on his Web site.