Apple should not release a subnotebook

Rumors have been swirling about an Apple subnotebook. But as Don Reisinger points out, Apple will not ignore these rumors, it won't release one of these devices.

If you follow the wide world of Mac computing, you probably know that rumors are commonplace and Steve Jobs always finds a way to fool everyone. But one of the most persistent rumors over the past few months has revolved around Apple's impending release of a subnotebook.

In case you're new to the subnotebook game, these devices usually offer many of the features you would expect from a normal notebook, but are extremely underpowered and typically feature screen sizes that run between 7- to 10-inches. In order to keep their prices down, they usually lack many of the ports you would expect from a regular laptop and an optical drive is a blessing and not the norm.

That said, subnotebooks generally come in at a nicely affordable price, but rarely sell well on the open market. To make matters worse, most of these computers are downright ugly.

Now, after reading over the general design of a subnotebook, does that design sound anything like a product Apple would sell? Not a chance. Not to mention, don't you remember what happened the last time Apple ventured into the subnotebook market?

And while that description doesn't even apply to anything Steve Jobs and company would release, there's still a host of rumors saying Apple will release one of these losers.

Jim Goldman, a reporter with CNBC reported just last week that an Apple subnotebook was in the works and it would offer a 12-inch screen, be 50 percent thinner than the MacBook Pro and employ NAND flash memory. And just in case you're keeping score, this junker will retail for a cool $1,500.

And while Goldman's "unnamed sources" may be promising a full-fledged subnotebook, a new analyst report featured on AppleInsider today indicates that the subnotebook may never hit store shelves, after all.

According to an analyst at Goldman Sachs who spoke with manufacturing contacts in Asia, ""Apple will refresh its entire Mac line-up throughout 2008, but information about the potential launch of a subnotebook was scarce, with one supplier saying that the product may be pushed out, citing possible design issues."

Gee, you think? Not only does this "subnotebook" not even play the part of a real subnotebook, why would Apple even consider releasing it?

With Apple's notebook sales soaring and people continuously finding reasons to buy a Mac, what's the impetus for Apple to release a device that offers no cost benefit ($1500 for the subnotebook compared to $1500 for the top-of-the-line MacBook) and delivers a slightly thinner design, a new type of storage and a smaller screen?

Honestly, if Apple even considers releasing a subnotebook, I'll need to question the company's common sense.

Let's look at Apple's current product line as it relates to computing: it offers a 20- and 24-inch iMac for home users and those looking for an all-in-one solution; a 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro for power users; the Mac Pro for those looking for a workhorse; and the MacBook with a 13-inch screen. How does a 12-inch subnotebook even come into play in this scheme?

Now, I understand that subnotebooks offer more benefits than solely screen size, but by and large, people buy these products for their size and cost. In essence, a subnotebook is a neat little device to carry around and perform relatively simple tasks on. Does that sound like a Mac to you?

If we've learned anything from Apple over the past few years, we now know that Steve Jobs knows how to deliver the right products at the right time. But if he stands on stage at Macworld and shows the press a subnotebook, you can bet it'll be one of the biggest mistakes the company has ever made.

When selling a product, companies must answer a relatively simple question from the consumer: "why would I buy this thing?" But if Apple releases the MacBook Mini or whatever else they'll call this thing, that question won't be answered and its second trek into the subnotebook market will not be nearly as successful as anything it has done over the past few years.

Steve Jobs isn't dumb -- the Apple subnotebook is dead in the water.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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