Steve Jobs confirmed what I have long suspected: he has no clue at all what a typical consumer’s usage-model is for their personal computers:
A recurring question among Apple watchers for decades has been, â€œWhen is Apple going to introduce a low-cost computer?
Mr. Jobs answered that decades-old complaint by stating, â€œWe donâ€™t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.â€ He argued instead that the companyâ€™s mission was to add more value for customers at current price points.
However, he gave a more nuanced answer to the question of whether Apple plans to jump into the â€œnascentâ€ market for netbooks, essentially restating his comments on the question from last week at the Macbook introduction in Cupertino by saying the company was taking a wait-and-see attitude.
At the same time, he noted that the company already had a powerful entry in the category: the iPhone. (By that standard, Apple is already the dominant netbook manufacturer by orders of magnitude.)
The idea that the iPhone – sexy and cool as it is – is equivalent to a netbook is laughable. But what’s the real implication of Job’s comment? Is the iPhone a computer? If it’s a netbook, then yes, but it’s also sub-$500 in cost and therefore by Jobs’ own standard, “a piece of junk”. If the iPhone is not a computer, but a phone, then how can it be a netbook?
What IS a netbook? In essence, a small but full-fledged computer, weighing 3lbs or less, with full wireless capabilities and a real, physical keyboard. The gold standard is the Asus EEE, which has the added feature of a solid-state drive, which in my opinion is the must-have feature that provides power economy for all-day computing as well as boosted performance. The key however is that the netbook must be fully-functional, ie it should be able to run any software that the user desires. This idea behind a netbook is to be able to connect and compute anywhere. Since the iPhone is a locked-down device which only runs permitted applications, it can not and never be a true computing replacement. On my EEE, I can run MATLAB for scientific calculations, write a paper in Microsoft Word, edit my website templates, pay my bills, and even do an impromptu podcast. On the iPhone, you can only do what the pre-approved apps in the Apple software store permit you to do.
Now, it must be noted that Google’s Android platform – which is now officially open-source – does provide full-functionality computing. The only difference between an Android phone and a netbook will be the keyboard, and it’s not hard to imagine a simple keyboard-cum-case being developed that slots the phone in if you really need traditional typing ergonomics. Apple makes a nice device but it’s way out of its league here in even comprehending why netbooks matter, let alone it’s absurd claim to already be making them. Nice phone, though.