John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Apple, RIM: No Netbooks

balsillieApple and Research in Motion may disagree on many things, but they are of the same mind when it comes to the netbook phenomenon: It will be short-lived. Asked about Apple’s interest in the category during a late-April earnings call, COO Tim Cook said the company has none.

“When I look at netbooks, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens,” he explained, noting that it’s “a stretch” to call a netbook a personal computer. “It’s just not a good consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on….it’s not a space as it exists today that we are interested in, nor do we believe that customers in the long term would be interested in. It’s a segment we would choose not to play in. That said, we do look at the space and are interested to see our customers’ respond to it. People that want a small computer so to speak that does browsing and e-mail, might want to buy an iPod Touch or they might want to buy an iPhone. And so, we have other products to accomplish some of what people are buying netbooks for and so, in that particular way we play in an indirect basis.”

Turns out, Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie feels pretty much the same way. In a recent interview with Reuters, he said the company has no interest in adding a netbook to RIM’s product line. The only netbook Balsillie is interested in is one “you can hold up to your ear and clip onto your belt.” In other words, a BlackBerry. Anything larger just won’t cut it, as a parade of discontinued nonphone portable hardware has already shown us. “These devices don’t work,” Balsillie said. “At the end of the day what we’ve really found is that if [customers] can do it on a BlackBerry that’s what they’ll want.”

Interesting to hear these two companies come out so strongly against netbooks given the current buzz around them. Demand for netbooks is reportedly surging, so much so, it’s singlehandedly bolstering PC sales slowed by the econalypse. Nokia (NOK) is considering entering the netbook market according to Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. So why are Apple (AAPL) and Research in Motion (RIMM) thumbing their noses at it? Perhaps because they view the netbook as an interim product, a placeholder. Perhaps because they know that the handset is the next computer?

Apple certainly does. The iPhone already runs a spartan version of the company’s OS X operating system. How long will it be before the device is outfitted with a more powerful processor–perhaps one designed by PA Semi–capable of running OS X SL? How long before the iPhone (or its dock) is outfitted with the Mini DisplayPort that will connect it to a monitor? How long before we no longer need netbooks or notebooks because our handsets do it all?

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik