“The dawn of the netbook” is the new “the year of desktop linux”.

- Cameron Hunt (one of the makers of Birdhouse)

Apple losing sales to netbooks?

The Macalope has seen this Retrevo survey linked to a number of places and has some real questions about it.

First of all, Retrevo is not a research firm like Gartner. They’re a conduit to online sales. Do they get a cut of the sales from affiliate fees? The Macalope can’t tell from their web site.

Second, it’s interesting to note that one of their partners is HP, maker of netbooks. Maybe Apple is a partner too and they’re just not listed. Doubtful, but possible. HP is also specifically mentioned in the press release as one of the low-cost netbook alternatives to a MacBook. As a matter of fact, they’re the only other laptop vender mentioned. Hmm.

Third, what “trend” does their latest press release show? The title of their press release is:

Retrevo Survey Says Apple Loses Back-to-School Laptop Shoppers to Netbook & PC

Yet the press release says nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, it says very little.

Retrevo, the consumer electronics marketplace, released today a new Gadgetology study indicating 34% of students buying laptops are planning on purchasing small, lightweight netbooks. Another 49% are buying full-sized PC laptops. The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Assuming the second number excludes Macs, 34 + 49 = 83. Does that mean 17% of those surveyed are buying Mac laptops? What was Apple’s market share last year? How many sales or how much market share has Apple supposedly “lost” compared to last year?

They don’t provide that data. They just go on to castigate Apple for not having a low-cost laptop. It’s certainly possibly that netbooks are stealing the low end of the market where Apple doesn’t compete and it’s possible they’re growing that end of the market, but there’s absolutely nothing in their press release that show that Apple is losing sales to netbooks.

The majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac.

Uh, yeah. Apple has a market share below 10 percent. Of course the majority of even student laptop shoppers aren’t considering them.

Fourth, is an online sample size of 300 really statistically valid? That seems awfully low to the pointy one, but he’s no statistician.

This just seems very dubious.

ADDED: As TC points out in comments, this is only going to tell you something about what visitors to their site think (the survey was only of site visitors). And isn’t that an important bit of selection bias right there? What Retrevo does is pull together the prices from various online outlets. Their visitors are already self-defined as low-cost shoppers. They’re trying to find the lowest price. Don’t most Macs get sold through Apple’s online store and retail outlets anyway? How many people are ever going to visit Retrevo with the thought of buying a Mac?

MORE: Look at their “value map” for Apple laptops. Only three – the three cheapest – rate a “fair value”. All the others are rated “low value”. Ask yourself if that’s a fair assessment of Apple laptops. Again, it certainly appears that people who visit Retrevo’s site have some pre-conceived ideas about Apple’s laptop offerings. To these people low price = good value. To the Macalope, that describes a group that would rarely buy an Apple laptop in the first place.

Not talkin' 'bout a revolution

InfoWorld’s Neil McAllister gives netbooks a serious fluffing in his piece called “The shape of the coming netbook revolution”.

For example, did you know that netbooks are…

Cheap, portable and packed with features that cater to Net-savvy consumers…

“Packed with features”? Ah, like email and a web browser and… a screen… and, er… that other thing.

And “Net-savvy”? Really? Did you write that? Because, wow.

To support his trite argument about how super-cool netbooks are, MacAllister links to a piece on a ChangeWave survey that shows that given the choice between netbooks and oxygen, they’ll take the netbook, thank you very much, where the following can be found:

Increased notebook demand could mean good news for Apple Inc., whose market share has been slipping, according to ChangeWave, partly because it does not offer a cheap option such as a netbook.

The link here is to a piece on another ChangeWave survey (not market share analysis) of future buying preferences. It says fewer people ChangeWave surveyed said they were going to buy Macs and while that might be predictive of market share, that’s not market share. The Macalope’s not even sure if ChangeWave does market share analysis. They mostly do surveys.

But back to MacAllister who tells us what is it about these netbooks that make them so hot, hot, hot.

Netbooks’ tiny screens and cramped keyboards can be fatiguing to use for long periods, and their low-power processors struggle under heavy workloads. Business users will be dismayed by their lack of security features… And with their closed hardware designs and limited drive space, most models have short upgrade lifecycles.

Oh, Neil. You had the Macalope at tiny screens.

Flush with their intial successes, however, manufacturers have responded to these complaints with variations on the original theme. … Both Asus and Acer plan to ship netbooks with 11.6-inch screens in the near future. … Some models list for $700 or more, leaving many customers wondering where the netbook category ends and where laptops begin.

So the main appeal of netbooks is they’re small and cheap, but the problem with them is that they’re small and cheap. So companies are responding to criticism by making them larger and more expensive, effectively turning them back into notebooks.

But, still…

Netbooks! Whaa-hoo! Wave of the future! Number one! McAllister can see your house from up here!

And, hey, who ordered the IT industry group think?

A Linux-based UI may not cut it for day-to-day business computing, but for limited Web access, file viewing, and communications it should be more than adequate for most users.

Oh, really?

Look, the Linux UI is as exciting as dried toast, but is it any worse than XP, which is the operating system most businesses run (now available as a downgrade from Vista for only $50 more!)?

And how ludicrous is this complaint about the Linux desktop in a piece about netbooks? “Here’s your netbook with the glorious XP desktop from two thousand fricking one, business user! Enjoy the cramped keyboard and the tiny screen!” Right. Linux is really the drawback.

OK, this isn’t a horrible piece, it’s just silly. All this prostrating at the holy church of the netbook just strikes the Macalope as the latest technology industry paean to the flavor of the day. Remember net PCs and how we were all going to be using thin clients and, jeez, Apple better make one of those soon or it’s DOOOOMED?

Netbooks are simply cheap little laptops. But someone decided to slap the name “netbook” on them and pretend they’re some kind of innovation other than the same forces that have been at work in computers since the ENIAC, driving size and cost down. At least the net PC represented a new paradigm (or a return to an old paradigm).

This is not a “revolution”. It’s simple evolution. Cheap, plasticy evolution.

Such stuff as dreams are made of

This week’s piece at Macworld looks at the tablet thingamajiggy that is surely coming soon because everyone says so.

Word of warning

Glenn Fleishman noted this on Twitter yesterday, but Apple is no longer sending reminder emails to sign up for AppleCare. This burned the Macalope as well, who had planned to sign up at the end of the one year of warranty coverage, expected to be reminded then missed the date.

The horny one can only guess that the company has realized that charging people for repairs is more profitable than insuring them. Which doesn’t seem reassuring.

UPDATE: The comments seem to indicate that others are still receiving emails. Rather odd. The Macalope’s experience has always been that Apple sends out several notifications – strange that he and Fleishman received none.

You get what you pay for

This whole horse has been beaten into a mass of only vaguely horse-like matter by now, but as BusinessWeek’s Arik Hesseldahl points out, Microsoft’s actress paid less for the laptop she got because, dur-hey, it’s worth less.

Pinch the Macalope

He actually agrees with ZDNet’s Larry Dignan is about the Mac mini.

Not completely, of course (there’s no real comparison between the mini and a netbook, for example), but at the price point the mini is at — even with nine gajillion ports in the back — it just doesn’t seem to cut it. OK, if you find yourself a cheap monitor and already have a mouse and keyboard you can get into the Mac market for $700 or so, but the Macalope was really hoping for more here. Or less, as the case may be.

The iMac, on the other hand, is a terrific value.

UPDATE: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes comes to the mini’s defense!

Has anyone checked the warp field? This is starting to get alternate-universe-ish.

MacBook sales crushed by netbooks

Ha-ha! Of course not.

Apple laptops sales units are up 7% quarter-over-quarter and 34% year-over-year. Laptop revenues are up 11% and 23% respectively.

Back to you, Robin Harris.

Unicorn chaser

Michael Gartenberg, quoted in this Macworld piece by Jim Dalrymple, provides a good tonic to the nonsense in the previous pieces:

“Economic slowdowns don’t stop spending, but it means people will be more careful what they spend their money on,” Michael Gartenberg, vice president of market research firm JupiterMedia and editor of the MobileDevicesToday blog, told Macworld. “In many cases they will spend their money on premium products that represent good value for the dollar—for many people that’s not necessarily the cheapest product.”

No, no, no! They’re going to buy cheap crap that doesn’t do what they want and breaks all the time!

Somewhere, someone is wrong on the Internet

Picture the scene.

At the edge of a wood bordering the high mountain plain, a creature stands eating the last of the autumn RAM chips that have fallen from the magic trees that produce them. He must store up energy to survive the long winter that has already left the ground covered in a dusting of snow. As he chews slowly and thoughtfully, the pixies begin to nestle into his fur — a home they will claim until the spring thaws come.

Suddenly, the great beast pauses. He lifts his be-horned head and sniffs the wind. Alerted, the pixies burrow deep and his thick coat sparkles with their dust.

An ill wind is moving in from the southwest. The lesser beasts — the silken-furred jackalopes and hairy manelopes — have smelled it now too, and they bolt haphazardly into the forest.

But the Macalope breathes deep. He knows this smell. He knows what it means.

Somewhere, Rob Enderle has written something about Apple.

And he knows what he must do.

OK, that’s not exactly how it happened. The Macalope was getting some RAM chips and soda out of the pantry when he got an email from John Gruber saying “You want this one?” But his fur is full of pixies (they’re an excellent exfoliant).

Sooo, Mr. Enderle. What. To. Do. About. You?

You see, it’s fairly obvious what he’s doing here. As the horny one has noted, he’s come to realize that Rob is not as stupid as he’d have us believe. No, Rob is playing a part. It’s doubtful he truly believes what he writes about Apple. Lord knows no one else does.

Many an astute reader has wondered why the brown and furry one would reward such trolling with a link. Well, it’s not like traffic from the Macalope is really going to win Rob that coveted set of steak knives from the International Jackass Institute. And, really, you’re asking a creature with a Mac for a head not to respond to this? Clearly this is what the Macalope was born and bred for.

Plus, this one is like a quotation buffet. Take a look.

Unfortunately, the key part of the message for the new MacBook TV ad was the claim that it had the notebook computer that was the most green. Greenpeace almost immediately, and clearly opportunistically, branded Apple again as an environmental problem company, offsetting significantly the message Apple was trying to convey.

Right. Because we know how consumers just eat up those Greenpeace press releases.

In addition, the new Apple MacBook touchpads have been reported as broken, something that goes along with a number of other perceived quality problems with Apple’s latest products…

Perceived by who, Rob? You? Certainly not Apple customers. They sure beat the pants off your buddies at Dell. Crappy physician, heal thy crappy patient.

…most of which seem to be priced substantially more than the US$800 price ceiling that was identified at the Phoenix Technology conference I attended a few weeks back.

These ceiling comments are based on observed buying behavior after the economic collapse and, if true, given how expensive Apple’s PC products are, would indicate Apple is having problems selling its new PCs.

According to several guys down at the video place, Rob’s mustache exceeds the ceiling for tackiness for anyone not actually a ’70s porn star. If these ceiling comments are true, it could indicate that Rob was actually a porn star back in the ’70s.

No, what Rob means is that these comments would indicate that Apple might have problems selling its new PCs. Rob frequently seems prone to these leaps of logical faith when talking about Apple.

There is increasing speculation that there is a lower-cost Apple netbook coming, but it may arrive too late to offset Apple sales volume problems.

Sales problems we have shown conclusively through the use of third-party comments about their prices possibly being too high in this economy and through the use of Doug Henning-style magic! (Again, mustache.)

And what does this even mean, anyway? The Macalope keeps hearing people wondering aloud whether any price cuts by Apple will come “too late”. Apple has literally 8 million metric buttloads of cash on hand (no, you look the actual number up) and margins that offer a comfortable padding to cut into in hard times. Try that with a netbook, Rob.

Apple has substantial reserves, and there is little chance it will go under…

Go under? Go under what? The bleachers and make out with Anne Hathaway? That’s more likely.

Rob, having proved absolutely nothing, now brings it all not home.

…but it needs some lower-priced products in retail and simply may not have enough time this year to boost its 2008 numbers in the fourth quarter.

OK, so, after numerous years in the black and beating estimates quarter after quarter, Rob wants us to think that Apple suddenly has no idea how to sell computers. Well, it’s possible they’ve priced themselves out of this market.

It’s also possible Rob’s just doing it again.

You know which one the Macalope believes.

It’s the second one. Just so there’s no confusion.