Apple to re-enter the sub-notebook market

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
A tiny sub-notebook on its way from Apple Inc. is expected to re-establish the Mac maker as a leader in the field of compact computing while drawing parallels to the legendary PowerBook 2400 along the way.



It's been nearly ten years since the Cupertino-based company dabbled in the realm of sub-notebooks, but for a stint of several years in the early-to-mid '90s, its PowerBook series help set the benchmark for ultraportable computing as we see it today.



By introducing the PowerBook 100 in October of 1991, Apple pioneered innovations that are now de facto standards on all notebook systems, such as the rear placement of the keyboard, a palm rest for users to place their hands, and the inclusion of the trackball (which eventually gave way to the trackpad).



A year later, the PowerBook Duo was born. Extremely thin and lightweight for its time, the Duo was arguably one of the first true sub-notebooks for the masses. It packed a bare minimum of features, otherwise relying on a docking station for extra video memory, storage space, connectors, and connectivity to external displays.



But as the late '90s rolled around, the Duo had run its course and Apple as a whole appeared to have misplaced its focus on the sub-notebook market. At one point, it seemed the company was churning out new compact designs simply to discontinue them; the PowerBook 2400, one of the most adored Macintosh computers ever developed, didn't even last a year. It was overpriced, under-advertised and subsequently put to rest in March of 1998 -- just ten months removed from its debut.



Although a revision to the PowerBook 2400 remained available for a little while longer in the Japanese market, for which it was partially conceived, it would never see a successor. It was around this time that Steve Jobs took back the helm at Apple. And while it would be unfair to say Jobs did not appreciate the innovations in the ultra portable space that preceded his return, Apple was in a dire state. There were bigger fish to fry, so to speak, and he likely saw little urgency in 'fixing' the company's sub-notebook troubles. Therefore, he shelved them.



So it's almost uncanny that Jobs, nearly ten years from the day the PowerBook 2400 first saw light, will revitalize Apple's footprint in the sub-notebook sector with a petite MacBook that promises to be everything a modern day 2400 should be, and much, much more. (Ironically, it also took the company nearly a decade to introduce a notebook that was more compact than the original PowerBook 100. The Titanium PowerBook G4 introduced in 2001 measured 127 cubic inches compared to the PowerBook 100's 168.)



The Apple PowerBook 2400 with its external floppy drive.



This new tiny MacBook, people familiar with the project say, remains in development ahead of its target launch date around the time WWDC rolls around mid-year. It will be both lighter and more compact than any other Mac portable Apple has put forth in recent years, bundling a display of similarly smaller proportions.



Also setting the new model aside from its existing counterparts, those same people say, may be the conspicuous absence of an optical disc drive. Although Apple's original plans for the notebook called for its inclusion, reports are that the daunting ergonomics have recently driven company engineers to make a concession, forming yet another parallel between the new notebook and the defunct PowerBook 2400.



At the same time, the new MacBook model is expected to introduce some features not yet available with Apple's existing notebook offerings, such as onboard NAND flash. Plans reportedly call for the notebook to be the first of the company's MacBook offerings to utilize the solid-state memory in order to improve power efficiency and facilitate near instantaneous boot times. This feature, however, had not been frozen upon last check.



For Apple, the pint-sized MacBook should do more than just fill a niche in its notebook arsenal. In fact, management is hoping the new model will strike a chord in Japan, where consumers have a near-fetish for compact, cutting edge electronics. Hopes are also that the system plays its part to offset some of the declines adversely affecting the region's home computing market.







Apple's performance in the Japanese sector, despite being on par with industry-wide trends, has been an undeniable sore spot as of late. Sales of Macs were down some 14 percent year-over-year for the company's first fiscal quarter of 2007 ended December. Revenues in the region slipped even further, down 20 percent.



"The market in Japan is among the weakest in the world," Apple's second in command, Tim Cook, told analysts during a recent company conference call. "However, having said that, we're not pleased with our performance there and we've got a number of activities underway to attempt to improve them."



As a first order of business, Apple got cracking on localized versions of its "Get a Mac" television ads, which were warmly received by both Japanese consumers and the local media. And while those spots are helping to restore the Mac in the nation's public consciousness, it'll be the MacBook mini that truly gets the ball rolling in Japan once again.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 248
    Oh, happy days!









    I am just too happy to read this.



    Yes.



    Bring it on!
  • Reply 2 of 248
    Let the games begin:



    This machie has to out-perform the new Vaio from Sony which has a slip-down keypad, flash drive, and Vista built in. It has an option for a HD which is 800 cheaper than the flash, but uses more battery power, etc.



    It needs to have ease of use and also be able to drive an external monitor or projector. It shoud also have a remote control so that it can be used easily during presentations.



    Personally, as I have large hands, I hope it will have a split keyboard that will twist out to adapt to large-handed people. Thanks in advance, Steve.



    Oh, God. I am too happy about this. Just last night I started thinking about putting money aside for a new computer (my current PB is nearly 3 years old and beginning to show it).
  • Reply 3 of 248
    Very cool! It will probably have an LED-backlit screen, too!
  • Reply 4 of 248
    And to all those no-sayers that said Apple would never consider making a sub-notebook: hope your credit cards are paidup full, because I bet you will want one of these, too.
  • Reply 5 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    Oh, happy days!









    I am just too happy to read this.



    Yes.



    Bring it on!



    Yea, me too! Appleinsider is the bomb lately when it comes to nailing this stuff with clarity. I dunno about this rosey outlook for Japan tho. Yes, yes, i know the japanese were 2400 crazy ... blah blah blah
  • Reply 6 of 248
    airslufairsluf Posts: 1,861member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    And to all those no-sayers that said Apple would never consider making a sub-notebook: hope your credit cards are paidup full, because I bet you will want one of these, too.



    Yes, i agree with both of you. There is no where else for apple to go. please, if you think people want a 20 inch macbook over a subMacbook you been on the cheeba too long. I also agree that this will probably happen because there is no reasons for doubting this. ai has been right on, brotha!



    AS
  • Reply 7 of 248
    Very cool news! When Apple announces products (not that this is quite a product announcement yet), it's so hard to remind myself that I really don't need a new computer. But it is good to know that I'll have the choices I want when I do need to replace my current notebook. I was starting to come to terms with the idea that I'd have to live with the 13.3" Macbook, but this changes everything for me!



    And hearing that they are thinking of leaving out the optical drive is just great! I think that I've used my optical drive only a handful of times away from home in the three years I've had my notebook: an external drive is a far better option.



    And if they also encorporate flash memory into the notebook, even better! Open it up, and start typing!



    I wonder what size it'll be? If it's an 11" widescreen, then it will be as wide as the 12" ibook (though shorter), so you'd be able to have a full keyboard. I'm going to guess that this is as small as Apple will go: and it sounds great to me!
  • Reply 8 of 248
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    YES! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!



    What? Whatever makes you think I want one?



    The possibility of a subnotebook has be discussed in the forum for ages now. Amazingly, after this article, people who never participated in those older threads say they want one. So much for the naysayers who kept writing "Apple will never do it. The 12" Powerbook sold terribly." Wrong on both counts.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Denton View Post


    And hearing that they are thinking of leaving out the optical drive is just great! I think that I've used my optical drive only a handful of times away from home in the three years I've had my notebook: an external drive is a far better option.



    People including myself have written this over and over. And I definitely don't need a Superdrive in my laptop. I've never needed to burn a DVD on the go, although I burn tons on my PowerMac.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Denton View Post


    And if they also encorporate flash memory into the notebook, even better! Open it up, and start typing!



    I can do that already. Sleep mode works fine and it wakes in about five seconds.
  • Reply 9 of 248
    I'll believe it when I see it.



    ...or hear a lot more reports about it.



    I mean c'mon... Shaw Wu hasn't even touched this one.



    -Clive
  • Reply 10 of 248
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,365member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    And to all those no-sayers that said Apple would never consider making a sub-notebook: hope your credit cards are paidup full, because I bet you will want one of these, too.



    It's not a real product, so keep your wallets in their pockets for the time being.



    We've heard rumors about new product lines for ages, and few of them show up.



    If this did, I would really be interested, because I don't need a notebook, but if it were small, and light enough, it would be different.



    But, I'm still waiting for the newest revision of the Mac Pro. Where are you?
  • Reply 11 of 248
    What if:



    Dual screen, with the second screen serving as a dual touch input interface that can be programmable?



    iPhone has it... Why not?





    Man, I am dreaming already.



    and drooling
  • Reply 12 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    Personally, as I have large hands, I hope it will have a split keyboard that will twist out to adapt to large-handed people. Thanks in advance, Steve.



    This really doesn't seem like an "Apple" design. As I said in my previous post, I would guess that if Apple does the sub-notebook, it'll be based on an 11" widescreen, which will be as wide as the 12" ibook (though, shorter) and will allow them to use the same size keyboard as in the ibook.
  • Reply 13 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Denton View Post


    This really doesn't seem like an "Apple" design. As I said in my previous post, I would guess that if Apple does the sub-notebook, it'll be based on an 11" widescreen, which will be as wide as the 12" ibook (though, shorter) and will allow them to use the same size keyboard as in the ibook.



    You noticed I was joking?
  • Reply 14 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    I can do that already. Sleep mode works fine and it wakes in about five seconds.



    But sleep mode wastes the battery, no matter by how little. It makes me wonder by how much, though. Here's a good test: charge your notebook fully, put it to sleep and then unplug it. Come back in 24 hours and see what charge remains. Maybe I'll do that tonight.
  • Reply 15 of 248
    OK, everyone: get those engines roaring and fire up your SketchUp and Photoshop apps. We need some models floating asap.



    I wonder if there would be 2 possibilities: the aforementioned 11" or possibly one smaller, about the size of a DVD case.



    Yes, there are ideas about Apple design, but I think Apple design took a big change for the bettter with the iPhone, so we are in a free zone here.
  • Reply 16 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    You noticed I was joking?



    Nope, you were too subtle for me!
  • Reply 17 of 248
    I fall in the camp that believes Apple must increase it's range: 15.4 MacBook, MacBook with a dedicated graphics card, and yes, a smaller MacBook/Pro. Not that I believe in following others, but the PC world offers consumer laptops with 15 and 17" screens, at MacBook prices.



    I do not know the economics involved of such a stretching of the range, but it can't be that negative.... And don't get me started on the MacMidi (you know, graphics card, integrated power supply, normal size HD drive... ok call it the Cube2...).
  • Reply 18 of 248
    First round of specs:



    LED screen

    double-touch screen/keyboard



    30GB flash drive

    1 Gb RAM



    Blue tooth



    2 USB2 ports

    mini-DVI



    iSight



    very compact power brick PLEASE
  • Reply 19 of 248
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Quote:

    Not that I believe in following others, but the PC world offers consumer laptops with 15 and 17" screens, at MacBook prices.



    That's because they all use Windows. So they have to figure out ways to differentiate from each other based on specs and price. Apple isn't under the same pressure.



    Quote:

    I do not know the economics involved of such a stretching of the range, but it can't be that negative....



    Dell holds around 15% of the world PC market, while Apple holds about 2.5% of the world PC market. Out of the billions of dollars Dell generates in revenue, they only generate around 30 to 40 million more in real profit than Apple.
  • Reply 20 of 248
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    Let the games begin:



    This machie has to out-perform the new Vaio from Sony which has a slip-down keypad, flash drive, and Vista built in. It has an option for a HD which is 800 cheaper than the flash, but uses more battery power, etc.



    It needs to have ease of use and also be able to drive an external monitor or projector. It shoud also have a remote control so that it can be used easily during presentations.



    Personally, as I have large hands, I hope it will have a split keyboard that will twist out to adapt to large-handed people. Thanks in advance, Steve.



    Oh, God. I am too happy about this. Just last night I started thinking about putting money aside for a new computer (my current PB is nearly 3 years old and beginning to show it).



    I really hope this isn't going to be like Sony's UX (which I believe you're referring to). In theory I think it's an awesome gadget, but in practice the screen is just too small, and the keyboard is practically useless for any extended typing. It is a neat "wow, look how small it is" gadget, but for what it ends up being useful for, it doesn't end up being much more useable than a PDA.



    I'd much rather Apple do something more analagous to Sony's TX or G series. Very thin and lightweight, but still somewhat useable as an actual computer.
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