Netbooks are the in thing. The small and lightweight devices are scaled-down laptops that feature small processors and are ideal for tasks like email and surfing the web on the go. Everyone from Asus to HP and Dell has launched a mini laptop over the past two years.
And, as you might expect, the media is also buzzing about the fact that Apple doesn't make one. In fact, the least-expensive MacBook costs around three times the street price of the cheapest netbooks.
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As for Apple, it's remaining tight-lipped about plans, as usual. In late January, Apple COO Tim Cook said that the company was "watching that space...We've got some ideas here". But, Cook warned, "right now we think the products there are inferior and will not provide an experience to customers that they are happy with".
But that hasn't stopped rumours of an imminent Apple netbook. However, I'm not at all convinced that Apple needs to produce a £300 laptop or risk losing its market share to the netbook crowd. In its last financial quarter, the company sold more laptops than it's ever sold before, all without deigning to play in the world of the netbook. And how much profit margin can Apple really wring out of any sub-£500 laptop?
So I bought a netbook
However, one of the best things about netbooks is that it's cheap to buy one and take it for a test drive! So that's what I did. In December I bought an MSI Wind U100. It's got a 120GB hard drive, 10in screen, and 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor. And then, to fully emulate the Mac netbook experience - because I'm not interested in a tiny laptop if it's running Windows - I installed Mac OS X on the thing.
Now, we're absolutely not going to publish a step-by-step look at how you get an MSI Wind netbook to run Mac OS X. Of course, there are plenty of sources out there on the big, bad internet that will let you know how to do it. Besides which, this exercise was not about hacking the MSI Wind in order to run OS X.
The entire reason I embarked on this journey was to try and imagine what an Apple netbook might be like. And if you take a few blows to the head, you could almost begin to imagine that the MSI Wind is a MacBook Mini that fell through a rift in the space-time continuum. Almost.
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