The economy's tanking, everybody's broke and even high-end brands are feeling the pinch. Apple, we're told, is the BMW of tech - but even BMW is finding it hard to sell its stuff.
In computing, netbooks are a rare spot of good news in an otherwise bleak market. So should Apple make one? After all, even BMW has the Mini.
Here are seven good reasons why Apple should think small and release an Apple netbook - and a few good reasons why it shouldn't.
1. Apple has got the little bits
The MacBook Air shows that Apple can do thin and light, helped by its mini DisplayPort, which is much smaller than the VGA plugs that make all netbooks a tad bulky. We wouldn't expect the slimmed-down Core 2 Duo to be carried across from the Air, though: it's too expensive. Netbooks don't need the stellar performance of the Air, so an Intel Atom or Nvidia Ion would do the job just fine.
2. Apple has got the OS
Apple has two options here. It has Snow Leopard for the full Mac experience, or it could tweak the iPhone OS X and create something completely different from any other netbook. The latter would be fascinating and very Apple: a netbook that makes every other machine look like a dull business computer.
3. There's a gap in the laptop range
The MacBook Air is a brilliant portable computer, but the only person on an EasyJet flight with room to use one or the cash to buy one is the pilot. Even a MacBook's a bit big for cattle class.
4. Apple has the cloud computing system
Netbooks are all about cloud computing, and Apple has just the thing in the form of MobileMe. That offers something PC-based notebooks don't: a system that shares files and syncs data not just between computers, but between netbook, desktop and iPhone.
5. It would have a halo effect
As we all know, once you get somebody on the Mac they don't go back. A netbook would be exactly the same as the iPod or iPhone: a gateway drug to get people hooked on all things Apple.
6. Apple netbooks would sell squillions
Netbooks' low price is one reason for their current popularity, but people also buy them for their portability or just to show off. Apple could flog netbooks to people who can't afford Macs right now, or to people who already have Macs and want a new toy to play with. We've got a perfectly good MacBook Pro sitting in front of us and it's years away from replacement. We'd still buy an Apple netbook the second it was announced.
7. It'd really annoy Microsoft
Microsoft has managed to crush Linux on netbooks in a very short space of time, and it clearly expects to make some serious money from flogging Windows 7 on the teeny-weeny machines. How funny would it be if Apple did to Microsoft what Microsoft just did to Linux?
Convinced yet? We were - but then we thought of a few reasons we won't see an Apple netbook any time soon...
1. Insanely great isn't cheap
The MacBook Air is expensive for one very good reason: insanely great isn't cheap. Apple has already described sub-$500 PCs as "pieces of junk". Could Apple really make something brilliant that cost the same as a normal netbook? Especially when...
2. There's no money in it
Apple makes expensive stuff with hefty profit margins. Netbook margins are probably measured in pennies. If Apple isn't convinced that netbooks would deliver the same halo effect the iPod Mini did, why bother?
3. Apple already has a netbook
It doesn't look like a netbook and it could do with some document editing software - not to mention, yes! Cut and paste! - but the iPhone does all the internet, email and multimedia stuff, and the App Store makes it a clever portable computer too. If you could only travel with one device, what would you leave at home: your iPhone, or your netbook?
4. An HD Touch would be more compelling
Take one iPod Touch, make it twice the size, give it some desktop-style apps and you've got something that no other computer firm can deliver (or, we suspect, even imagine). You'd have all the things you expect from an iPhone, plus decent e-book reading and document editing. How great would that be? Bluetooth support for an external keyboard, 3G modem as an option, best computer ever.
5. Apple isn't hurting
Yes, Mac sales are down a bit - but unlike most firms, Apple has so much money sitting in the bank that its accountants have to invent new words to describe the numbers. Apple can afford to ride out the recession while spending stacks of cash on R&D for the next generation of iPhones, iPods and Macs. PC firms are making netbooks because they have to. Apple doesn't have to do anything it doesn't want to do.
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