Joe Wilcox’s War: Apple vs the Netbook Fools

Joe Wilcox doesn’t like Netbooks. Never did. Never will. He thinks they are  the root cause of problems in the WinTel segment of the tech industry. Netbooks eat into profit margins and, heaven forbid, let customers buy things on the cheap. After Apple’s product announcements today, coming on the heels of the the positive financial news from Cupertino, Wilcox is saying that Apple has launched a war on the entire PC industry and doing so from a position of strength.

In reality, the war has been going on for quite some time, but that’s beside the point. Wilcox, while a bit too jaded in his view of Netbooks IMHO, has some valid points. (I’m not sure I buy the scorched earth analogy though.) Yes, Netbooks have eroded profit margins and changed the way consumers view PCs running on Windows (or Linux, or Android, etc…). And yes, Apple has defied the logic of quite a few folks when it comes to its numbers over the last year given its love for the high end.

The real story and the real opening that Apple took advantage of isn’t the opening that Netbooks created. Instead its the opening that the failure of Vista created for the rise of Netbooks. The delay and the disaster that was Vista created so many openings for Apple, Asus, and anyone else that I’m surprised we didn’t see more disruptions in the bigger picture. It was pretty apparent to anyone following the tech industry that companies like Asus were looking for any way they could to run away from Redmond and still move forward at the time. Remember it wasn’t until the second generation of WinTel hardware got released with Vista that things began to sort themselves out, and by then it was too late. Early “Windows Capable” hardware failed miserably. And instead of the launch of a new generation, we had a resurgence of the old sparked by familiarity with Windows XP that bordered on nostalgia. It was like car buyers turned down the latest models and all opted for used car purchases. And keep in mind, the early Netbook push wasn’t geared around XP, it was Linux.

Don’t get me wrong when I say this, but all Apple really needed to do to gain market share was not screw up during those days. And, basically, they didn’t. In fact they advanced a few balls down the field. Things were so tumultuous that a steady ship looked very promising. Especially one that could muster some marketing savvy.

There is no question that Netbooks have created a problem for the WinTel folks. But the real problems began before Netbooks took hold.

The picture is much more complex than either Joe or I are making it, and now that we are on the eve of the Windows 7 launch, and after Apple’s two big newsdays, I’m just surprised that we never saw more reporting on the problems that occurred as they were being played out.