By not coughing up a low-cost MacBook, as some had expected, Apple has ceded a potentially huge market to PC makers. But is this just all part of Apple's marketing genius?
The announcement Tuesday of the $999 white polycarbonate MacBook was pretty ho-hum as product refreshes go (same price, same color as before) but the implication was important: Apple is surrendering a large, emerging laptop market to Microsoft and its coterie of PC makers.
Not that it's necessarily a bad strategy. Market researcher Gartner said recently that Apple's shipments in the U.S. grew year-over-year by 6.8 percent to total 1.57 million during the third quarter, putting it right behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Acer. Comparatively, overall PC shipments in the U.S. grew by 3.5 percent from a year earlier.
But among those unimpressive overall PC numbers (HP's third-quarter shipments grew only 2.7 percent), was an impressive statistic for Acer: buoyed by Netbooks, Acer's shipments grew by 61.4 percent year-over-year, and it blew past Dell to become the No. 2 PC maker worldwide based on this growth.
Granted, Netbooks are a relatively low-profit segment (i.e., profit on a $400 Netbook is going to be a lot less than that on a $999 laptop). Nevertheless, they're a hot market. Intel CEO Paul Otellini has stated numerous times that Intel was able to create a market that grew faster than either the iPhone or Nintendo Wii. Case in point: Windows 7-based Acer Netbooks are now big on the Home Shopping Network--which claims to have sold more than 5,000 in one segment on Saturday.
And that's not the only market Apple is punting on. A new category of inexpensive, thin laptops has emerged with the roll-out of Windows 7 on Thursday. Like Netbooks, these laptops are light (typically 4 pounds) and don't include an optical drive. But they are relatively powerful and full featured. The 15.6-inch Acer Aspire Timeline, for example, with a 320GB hard disk drive and dual-core Intel processor is fairly well-endowed at only $500.
Apple is not receiving a lot kudos in the mainstream business press… Read more