Have You Seen Apple's Netbook?

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At last count, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) had sold at least 13 million netbooks. And by "netbooks," I mean "iPhones."

Go ahead, type your hate mail. I'm inviting it with my facetiousness. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. Take a Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) netbook and compare it, side-by-side, to an iPhone. What's the netbook have that the iPhone doesn't? More disk space, a keyboard, and a larger screen.

Those are all important if you're doing serious work or creating serious documents. Of course, if you were, you'd use a fully loaded laptop -- not a netbook.

Dell says as much at its promo page for the Inspiron Mini 9 netbook. Quoting its highlighted customer review:

Small enough to carry everywhere and enough flexibility to be truly useful. Or just think of it as a super-sized BlackBerry or iPhone. Battery life is a full four hours. [Emphasis added.]

And here's how Wikipedia defines a netbook:

A netbook is a light-weight, low-cost, energy-efficient, highly portable laptop suitable for web browsing, email and general purpose applications -- primarily noted for its small form factor. [Emphasis added.]

Or, in simpler terms, it's an oversized smartphone without the phone. Which means that Apple, Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) are all in the netbook business. The iPhone, especially; the iTunes App Store hosted more than 10,000 applications at last count.

Some of that software caters to our silly side, like the mega-moneymaker iFart Mobile. Others offer serious value, such as Oracle's (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) business intelligence portal and's (NYSE: CRM  ) mobile app.

I mention this because some are gushing about Apple's iPhone distribution deal with Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , as if lower prices -- and netbooks! -- will help the iEmpire rule.

Certainly, lower prices would attract attention and sales. But let's also remember that the price-cutters are asking Apple to stop being Apple. Imagine for a moment if the company did. How likely would the Mac maker be to create another new platform, a category-killer that could grow well beyond its initial design? Not very, I think. Innovators create platforms; skinflints don't.

Apple isn't a skinflint, and it shouldn't try to be one. It should forget netbooks. The iPhone is already as good as one, and it'll only improve as the App Store expands its offerings. It's the platform that the much-mocked Newton hoped to be but never was, and it's the precursor to my theory for Apple's Next Great Thing -- a Wi-Fi tablet Mac based on the Safari browser. If I'm right, look for it in 2009.

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Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Dell, Nokia, and Wal-Mart are Inside Value picks. Try either of these Foolish services free for 30 days, with no obligation to subscribe.

Yes, Fool contributor Tim Beyers really did download iFart Mobile. What else would you expect from an analyst for a newsletter called "Rule Breakers?" He credits forecaster Paul Saffo for the tablet Mac idea, and Tim had stock and options positions in Apple, and stock positions in Nokia and Oracle, at the time of publication.

Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy could type more accurately on an iPhone if only its fingers were smaller.

Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (12)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 1:12 PM, wkchu wrote:

    This really doesn't make sense to me. Netbook is a totally different category. It's a full fledge computer in a small format. It allows people to carry it around much more easily and have the option of doing everything that a full fledge computer does.

    iPhone is not a full fledge computer. It is optimized for phone, pda, internet, and small applications. It's a great little device. But still, it has its limitations. Not everyone is going to jump on the iPhone, and better yet most people might buy both. They might prefer something that has a bigger screen and a full size keyboard at a differnt occasion.

    If Apple kept ignoring this category, it might just miss out the market segment that can help drive their growth. I know they might be concerning that it will intrude revenue from their other category such as MacBook and iPhone. But they shouldn't think that way because that's a sign of a dinosaur company that becomes too big and need to protect their other part of the business.

    It's funny that it is making argument like I'm making a 13 inch notebook which is same as and does everything that a 15 inch notebook does, so why should I make a 15 inch notebook. Just buy the 13 inch notebook and be happy with in. Well, someone is going to prefer a bigger screen, better processor, more powerful grahics, and etc... Again, it is similar to say that I have a 13 inch notebook so why should I make a 10 inch netbook. I would say that it's all about personal preference.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 2:07 PM, SteveTheInvestor wrote:

    Sorry, but I can't agree with the notion that the iPhone is on par with a netbook. A netbook is closer to being a notebook computer and and iPhone is closer to being a smartphone. Two different devices albeit with limited overlap in functionality.

    If I want a computer, I'm not going to buy an iPhone. For basic computing functionality, I can pay several hundred dollars for a net book and be ready to go. For an iPhone, I can pay several hundred dollars then pay $80.00 a month in perpetuity. Not hardly the same.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 2:49 PM, nomadicalloy wrote:

    whats wrong with this picture? Just to generate some traffic come up with story like this.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 3:20 PM, bscwAl wrote:

    I think you guys are missing the point. Steve Jobs essentially said the same thing on Apple's conference call—for many people, the iPhone is notebook/netbook replacement.

    I'm an iPhone owner and I can tell you I use it often when taking my laptop isn't an option or isn't convenient. And I do many of the same things: check my email, check various websites and take notes; I also keep up with my friends on Twitter and Facebook. Just like a laptop/notebook/netbook.

    Oh yeah—I can also make phone calls, listen to music and podcasts and watch movies and manage my contacts and calendar. When you think about it, the iPhone is more functional than most netbooks right now.

    You can imagine a tablet version of the iPod Touch coming fairly soon. However, it won't be Safari-based. Why would Apple do that when they have 10,000 and counting apps that are ready to run?

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2008, at 8:24 PM, peterjlist wrote:

    I went to Tokyo yesterday and walked around with my GSP, amazed as Google Maps found the EXACT BUILDING I was going to. When I was done, I used Google Maps to find where the return train station was. While it tracked my movement walking back, it told me what time the next train was (so I could hurry and catch it) and what the fare was going to be. On the train back I planned on using my Macbook Pro for work but I ended up doing mail, web surfing and watching 1.5 hours of stored video on the phone, and then I was home. No notebook needed, at least on that trip.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 9:38 AM, mattberes wrote:

    Why is it that people who choose to comment on blogs, webposts, and other internet based articles feel it unnecessary to proofread their posts? It seems that ninety-five percent of the amateur replies in the internet world are full of typos, grammatical errors and flat out unintelligible gibberish. Can't people check their work? If they were submitting it to a newspaper editor, they would most likely give it a second look, but not online. It seems we've become very lazy as an online community when it comes to typing whatever it is we are TRYING to get across. If you want to make a point, then craft your words, type them out, proofread them, make your edits, and post them. Stop filling the internet with first grade level posts. We have enough already and don't need more.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 11:30 AM, ziq wrote:

    I agree with mattberes, but find the level of this thread to be like graduate-level journalism compared to *most* Internet forums.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 12:01 PM, davebarnes wrote:


    The plural of forum is fora. Ask your Latin teacher.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 3:23 PM, Babble100 wrote:

    I see iPhone as a communication device par excellence. Netbooks are clumsy for communicating by comparison. Communication is the most important function to emerge so far for the masses from the computer age. Email is the killer app of this era, and by combining it with voice and doing it all much better than the cell phone industry, Apple has created something great.

    On the other hand, netbooks outdo iPhone as mobile offices. People do need that too, but not quite as much.

    So to me they're not the same. But remember, I was with you in the beginning in predicting the iTablet!

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 3:30 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Babble100: "So to me they're not the same. But remember, I was with you in the beginning in predicting the iTablet!"

    Yes, you were. For those who wish for a reminder:

    Having said that, I've head a similar but more detailed argument from Paul Saffo since before the iPhone was available.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh)

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2008, at 6:23 PM, Linkiboy wrote:

    Bah, just because Dell or Wiki defines it like that, doesn't mean it is. They're just delegating this definition to it (especially Dell and Intel... and Intel basically gave the definition on Wikipedia) since they don't want to lose sales in the notebook market. Truth is, many people do use netbooks as a primary laptop. I do, I use it to write on the road and to play games. And I can run anything I want since its x86 based.

  • Report this Comment On December 31, 2008, at 2:25 AM, MrZ2357 wrote:

    "What's the netbook have that the iPhone doesn't? More disk space, a keyboard, and a larger screen."

    Well that's not the complete list.

    Netbooks have:

    More usb connections, longer battery life, greater application selection, faster processor, greater choice of OS, wireless/LAN/wifi connectivity to the net.

    Greater list of development tools.

    Additionally netbooks are not subject to:

    Restrictions of the service provider or mandatory monthly fees.

    So if we ignore all the above, then yes they are the same.


  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2009, at 7:22 PM, Manorperson wrote:

    Apple already has a Net Book is called Mac Air. Its a little pricy, but it's more than capable.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2009, at 7:23 PM, Manorperson wrote:

    Can anyone compare the Apple Iphone to the Sony PSP3000.

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