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Apple Seeding Netbook Plans

Apple may not introduce a tablet-like netbook this fall, but is quietly making long-range plans for a device that fits more neatly into its overall strategy.

A recent survey of back-to-school plans shows that students are more inclined to buy low-cost netbooks than MacBooks, which is no surprise given the state of the economy.

In a survey of 300 students headed back to school, Retrevo, an electronics product review search service, found 34 percent said they intend to buy a "small lightweight netbook," while 17 percent stated they will opt for an Apple MacBook. Most respondents intend to buy a full-sized, full-powered PC laptop, with 49 percent aligning with a more traditional Windows configuration.
But cheap isn't where Apple lives in any case, and those bargain-hunters may not be Apple's preferred customer of choice. Remember, Apple lives on, and essentially owns, the high-end of the markets it serves. Given its recent results, and the fact that it currently boasts the highest capitalization in the world, there's no reason for it to change.

As Ars Technica puts it

In fact, Apple does best when it moves the bar higher. Take, for example, the recent 13" MacBook to 13" MacBook Pro transition. Apple moved the machine upscale, and now it is selling better than ever. A recent rumor also suggests that Apple will be replacing the 8GB iPhone 3G with an 8GB iPhone 3GS--despite the 3G being only $99 versus the $199 pricing to move up to a 3GS, the 8GB iPhone 3G didn't sell. Apple raised the bar with the iPhone 3GS, and customers, for the most part, weren't interested in the 3G anymore.
Apple has every reason to wait for the market to catch up to its technology, and is in the meantime building a data center that at least one observer believes will be used for cloud computing.
Apple already dabbles in cloud computing with its MobileMe Service, which delivers push e-mail, contacts and calendars from the Internet-based "cloud" to computers and handheld devices. It offers a suite of Web 2.0 applications that provide a desktop-like experience through a Web browser.
Even the iTunes App Store, after all, is itself a cloud-based app. What Apple needs to sell a high-end netbook is for the customers in the sweet spot of its market -- affluent, tech-friendly trend-setters -- to become accustomed to running software and storing data in the cloud rather than on the device itself. Once that's accomplished, Apple can swoop in with a more feature-rich and elegant version of the netbooks currently on the market.
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