Netbooks aren't really all that cheap when you consider what you get. I just bought my daughter a 15.6" Toshiba laptop with 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo, DVD burner, 2 GB, 240 GB and discrete graphics for $379. Why in the world would I want to pay $300 for a crappy 10% netbook with atom processor and no optical drive?
Netbooks are about as far from $1k range as you can get. Increase the price on a $300 netbook by $50, and it's still hardly close to $1k. MS cut the licensing cost on netbooks as a special price class alone, any price adjustment in the netbook class won't make the regular notebooks any more expensive. I think there were restrictions on screen size, CPU speed and RAM to qualify for a netbook license.
I agree that netbooks are not on Apple's radar screen. While it's possible that someone might choose a netbook over a MacBook and then change their mind when the netbooks go up by $50, it's not likely.
The real issue is that Microsoft has been out pushing the concept that price is everything - that someone would be foolish to buy a Mac because it's more expensive than a Windows computer. Buy spreading this "you only need to look at the price tag to choose your computer" concept, they are making themselves vulnerable on the low end. Currently, a Linux netbook isn't much less expensive than a Windows netbook. Add $50 to the Windows netbook, and the Linux system may look lots more attractive - since you're only selling price. When ChromeOS hits the market with Google's marketing clout behind it, that difference becomes even more important.
The 'price is everything' strategy could easily backfire when they raise Windows prices for netbooks.
First they roll out the laptop hunter ads to brand themselves the Walmart of OSes. Now after publicly laying claim to the cheap end of the market they want to move their brand upmarket. In the history of brand management, that is the hardest thing to do. (Harder even than Jack in the Box recovering from a food poisoning event.) VW tried to do it with the $70K Phaeton. That flopped. Walmart tried to do it after suffering from Target envy a few years back. That flopped. Somebody name me a success story.
Well, my company did it in the industrial products category, but it's not well known, so there's no point in naming it. It can be done, but it's very, very hard. More importantly, it requires that you have a powerful, unique selling feature that allows you to command a premium price in some niche. Microsoft has completely abandoned the concept that the OS is worth paying for because they no longer have any unique selling features, so it will be hard for them to go upscale.
No, you're just witnessing Microsoft's inability to understand marketing and branding. They are completely clueless about how you create a value proposition and are therefore left with lame copies of Apple's humorous ads or the silly "you should buy whatever is cheapest" Laptop Hunter ads.
I particularly love Ballmer's 'rounding error' comments. Sorry, but Apple's share gains are not a rounding error - they're quite real and have earned Apple many billions of dollars - while reduing Microsoft's revenues by at least hundreds of millions of dollars. Just another example of Ballmer sticking his foot into his mouth when he has nothing intelligent to say.