August 11, 2009 - by grassonthefield
Whether or not Apple releases a Netbook (=sub $500 fullish keyboard portable), this class of device is ultimately deadly to the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Why? Netbooks aren't mini-powerful laptops. The are powerful browser-app platforms and they accelerate the adoption of browser-based applications. No one (really) uses a netbook to run Photoshop, or even some office suite, for that matter. Have you used one of these machines for that purpose? They are way too slow. However, used with browser-based applications, netbooks are very effective. Browser-based applications make the underlying operating system irrelevant. Without relevancy, any maker of an operating system is pushed down the stack while the browser manufacturers take pride of place as the new "operating system" (where an "operating system" is loosely where the user/customer operates). Brower-based applications have transcended the on-line/off-line divide (they do both, well) and now began to offer very competent (if still somewhat hoggish) approximations of full-blown on bare-metal operating systems. With the advent and adoption of HTML 5, this fact is only accelerated without regard to who owns which developer-land. If the operating system is irrelevant, the hardware device is (in practice) irrelevant. If I can run Chrome on a Linux machine, a Windows machine, a Mac OS X machine, why do I care about the machine. Answer: I don't. What if I can run Chrome on a phone? Do we see what's happening? Sorry, it's already (too?) late. The open question for Apple and Microsoft is what businesses are left. This plays out in different ways for Apple and Microsoft. Apple has not surprisingly shifted hard to the high-end market of users that do require a full operating system to run Photoshop, edit movies, etc. At some point even these types of "pro" applications will be handled by the browser-based machine. But that is a bit out, for now. What is the impact of this scenario against Apple's other businesses? Can the iPhone stand alone? Or is HTML 5 a wedge that is deadly to it as well? Windows is most certainly dead, in time. Whatever happens: a large disruption is ahead for these firms to navigate. By the way, I'd argue the likes of Dell (pure hardware) are well-positioned because they go to the Intel and China closets and are very good at repackaging existing technology without significant software value add. So what if the future is a laptop with a Google monopoly browser. Dell's made lots of money playing on this sort of terrain. I don't think the future is another monopoly. Netbooks and HTML 5 are very good news for the ecosystem. Proprietary is going to be significantly eroded in the coming months and years.