Apple Says Netbooks Cramped, Terrible, Junky, Not Mac-Worthy -- Buy an iPhone Instead!

Also covered on today's Apple Q2 2009 financial results call were Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook's description of netbooks, as currently on the market, having:

cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience… that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly.

So where does that put all the rumors about an Apple netbook being all but imminent? Either once again shoved on the back burner like the iPhone nano, or -- really imminent. (Apple has a history of trash talking product spaces and denying interest right up until they launch their own offering, like video on iPods, or, you know, smartphones).

Does this mean we'll more likely see an Apple tablet? Mac OS X or iPhone OS X based? Opinions vary but Cook gave nothing away. Instead, to costumers who might want mobile web and email, he offered this advice:

They might want to look at an iPhone or iPod touch instead.

Okay, so I'll admit that I leave my laptop at home now and just use an iPhone far more often than I ever would have guessed I would, but as a full on mobile replacement? Is it really there yet?

And what do you see, if anything, as Apple's now near-mythical entry into the pseudo-netbook space? One of the above, or something else entirely?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple Says Netbooks Cramped, Terrible, Junky, Not Mac-Worthy -- Buy an iPhone Instead!


Does apple not have a netbook yet? I know that sony has released a new p-series that can't be called this because of its innovative design. And the specs can be upgraded to alot of power unlike other netbooks...if you have the money to do so.

Hmmm... this actually sounds like they could have one they plan to release soon. They would say "all the netbooks out there suck because of x, y and z. But our engineers have beautifully crafted THIS amazing product that is way better than all that crap out there because... well, we're Apple we and we do everything better." =D

Now that I think about it. If they do release a netbook ; it's probably going to be OS X based because MobileSafari doesn't even have flash or support other video formats others than QuickTime and YouTube clips.
I think Apple will release a full screen mobile OS X device of some sort. It would have some iPhone-esque features like how you copy and paste on 3.0. I think they are probably trying to figure out where to put the keyboard. It would look like the iPhone/iPod Touch too.
They're probably gonna release it when they design something that they think will be better than what's already out. What Time said is in fact a clue IMO.

I don't understand why they need to make one. I have a MacBook and an iPhone. There's no gap that needs filling. The iPhone, especially as it develops, more than covers the netbook, to my mind.

looks plain to me - instead of competing on price in the low-end netbook market where profits are small, Apple is going to expand its industry-leading iPhone/Touch OS product line with a 9" Touch tablet that just runs apps, not desktop applications. that's a new market segment that Apple re-invented and can dominate, just like iPods did to portable music players. and it will sell like hotcakes for people like me who don't want another darn PC to fuss with constantly but do want a simpler app-style computer to carry around all the time that 'just works' and does neat stuff we need or like. their profit margins will be a lot better too. netbooks are best for some people with other needs, good for them. Cook was just trash talking.

Typo? This story says Q3 results and one further down reckons q2 conference all, are apple running in the future? :)

This is a hard one to call. I personally do not see the draw of netbooks. And like Cook said, you could buy an iPhone instead. My iPhone can do everything my mom's netbook can do and probably more because really all it can do is run a web browser.
I am amazed how much I use my iPhone for now while out and about. I rarely take my laptop with me now unless I am going to be going some where for a few days.
Plus isn't the MacBook Air pretty much a netbook (although a very expensive one)? You pretty much can only go online with that and run some office/iwork programs. Anyone try to game on it?

To be honest, the only thing the ipod touch doesn't have right now, is a larger screen. All I do with it is webbrowse, read news articles and books with stanza. A larger screen(say, paperback book size) - and nothing else - would be a must have.

I think that this whole 'netbook' craze is kind of a mislabeled phenomenon.
A netbook isn't anything different from a regular laptop. It has a screen, a keyboard, a pointing device, and a network adapter. They are simply affordable, and as small as manufacturers can make them and still have them be functional for touch-typing on.
A UMPC on the other hand was an attempt at a 'new' genre, a micro-tablet with no keyboard that had a touch-able screen (as opposed to the RF pen digitizers on tablet PCs.) Since you couldn't type on them, and they were expensive, I think that segment kind of pooped out.
The reason I find my iPhone so useful is that, since it's my cellular phone, I always have it with me everywhere I go. As a result, if I need to use the internet for something or need access to another program, my phone's right there and it's perfectly usable for most of the things I use the internet for. A UMPC-sized tablet wouldn't be so useful, because even though it is smaller than even a netbook, it's still another big thing I would have to carry around.
I think Craig Hockenberry has said that he thinks some kind of media extender ala Apple TV would be the real device Apple is going to sell. Instead of something that competes with the iPhone (by having persistent network access like a 3G-enabled netbook) or something that competes with the MacBook (by being a regular laptop, just mini-sized), Apple would release something which fits into life in a different manner.
Unfortunately, I don't see how having Front Row on a keyboard-less tablet is anything different than an iPod Touch. However, the iPod Touch is really an iPhone without a phone, not an iPod with Touch.

to consider the iphone has a proper netbook replacement two things are needed:
1 - external bluetooth keyboard support
2 - ms office for iphone :) ok, i guess docs to go or quickoffice can do the trick

When i was in the market for a laptop, i specifically went for a 13" ibook because it was small. Its getting on a bit now and i had been thinking or perhaps looking at a netbook to replace it, but you know, If im not using my iphone for email and the web, if i do need a bit more, say a holiday or a trip with a digicam that i want to email photos home etc... the iBook is plenty small enough for that. I dont think its that much of a drag to carry around.
I just dont see the need for a netbook. Though having said that... A smaller version of the macbook Air? Yeah. i'd go for that.

Netbooks do fill a niche, but I agree with thekevinmonster that its over hyped.
They can be great for the traveler, especially when small enough to be carried in hand, like a book.
To date the run time is not all that spectacular, but when that is solved, these things could take off.
The Kindle is the precursor. Watch that area.
As for Apple, they will dis the netbook till 6 months before they release one. Then they will add a feature (multi touch or something) and claim its totally new and "years ahead" of the competition.

A silly statement to come from Apple. Rolls Royce might never build a motorcycle, either, and sometimes "cramped" is "just right." The Air is beautful but that price point...

@ Rene,
You need to get past the idea of detachable. That is not going to happen and I would expect someone who blogs about Apple to know that.

This discussion while valuable, it ignores where the market may take us in the near future.
Imagine the iphone v6.0 as the center point of the personal computing environment.
This is where the iphone is the hub and peripherals (keyboard, mouse, large & small screens, mass storage,etc) are connected seamlessly.
This processor will be fully software compatible for PC, MACS, etc.
For travel all that I would need to do is lift the iphone and go with whatever peripherals that I need or attach to what's available on my route while connecting at high speeds with the cloud.
That's where we are heading with this and I want to be there.

My netbook runs FEA,CAD, MS Project, and fits easily the small bag I carry to work. Can't do that with a iPhone. If you only use a computer for is email, spreadsheets, documents, gaming, and browsing, the lack of need of a netbook is understandable. If carry my notebook around, it takes up twice the space requiring me to tote a dedicated bag for it. Good for Apple but I respectfully disagree.