Apple Should Forget Netbook Hardware and Focus on Netbook OS

applenetbookmockupIn reading the crazily careening coverage of the reports that Apple is going to be working up a Netbook later this year, I stumbled across this post from The AppleBlog. Darell Etherington says that the Netbook OS is going to become the new battleground for fun and profit in the future. I tend to agree. So much so that I think Apple should just forget the hardware, follow the Hackintosh trend, and deliver an OS that could be installed on any Netbook. Here’s why.

  • We’ve seen OSX already work on available Netbooks thanks to some hacking. It doesn’t look like it would require a massive investment for Apple to push things this way.
  • Apple has already called Netbooks a “piece of junk” and said they can’t make something that cheap and stay within their design and aesthetic milieu. That’s all well and good. Forget trying to make the hardware conform and just create a slick and pretty OS.
  • Microsoft’s strategy makes it ripe for the picking. Tons of Netbooks are floating around with Windows XP on them right now (and yeah some with a Linux flavor or two as well.) But as of now there is no upgrade path for Windows 7 from Windows XP. I’m sure the bean counters and marketing mavens are thinking that Netbook prices are so low, that foks will just buy a new one when Windows 7 comes out   They may be right. Microsoft is sticking with its multiple SKU madness for Windows 7 and aiming Windows Starter at Netbooks to try and up sell customers along the way. If a customer has to buy a box (or a download) to install a new OS and there is competition, I would imagine quite a few folks would look Apple’s way, especially if Apple is able to keep to its one size fits all model.
  • Then there’s Google and the Android OS. There’s word today that we might see   a Netbook in two months or so with an Android OS on it. I’d love to see that happen sooner rather than later. But, I’m guessing (note I said guessing) that a Netbook Google OS will still take awhile to take hold of any significant mind and market share.

If Apple struck now (or this year, rather) it could quickly take over a lion’s share of the market for Netbooks and, in my opinion, own the game. That could happen without a dollar spent on figuring out how to make “cheap hardware” look good.

Granted this change’s “we control it all” modus operandi, but I think the circumstances with Netbooks might just create the right opportunity for such a large shift.