By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 11:19 am
In my more cynical moments, I’ve sometimes contended that analysts don’t know anything we technology journalists don’t–it’s just that they get paid (a lot) more for their opinions, and people take them more seriously. I was reminded of this stance when I read a Computerworld story today which reports that analyst Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research is saying that Apple will announce two netbooks at Macworld Expo in a little over two weeks.
“Will” is a pretty definitive word–at least a lot more so than “could” or “might” or “should.” But it turns out that Gottheil doesn’t know whether Apple is going to release netbooks. He doesn’t even have any inside scuttlebutt like rumors of parts spotted at an Asian factory or gossip that Apple has placed a humongous order for 10-inch screens. He just used “triangulation,” which is a fancy word for “guessed.” Based mostly on two factors that frequently come up when folks guess at what Apple’s up to: The fact that it likes to unveil cool stuff at Macworld Expo, and the theory that it can’t possibly avoid cutting prices sharply in order to compete better with cheaper Windows PCs.
I say that it’s a “fact” that Apple likes to release cool stuff for Macworld because…well, it obviously does. But there are also such things as disappointing Steve Jobs keynotes–some people weren’t that impressed with the MacBook Air, the centerpiece of last year’s Expo keynote–and it’s entirely possibly that Apple might release something (or several somethings) that wasn’t a netbook.
And while countless pundits have declared that Apple will prove unable to resist the temptation to go cheap, the company seems quite capable of bypassing the bargain bin. Actually, it’s a core component of its business strategy to build slicker products and sell them at higher prices than most of its competitors. So I’d be no more surprised if Jobs doesn’t unveil something inexpensive at Macworld Expo than if he does. (Gottheil seems to say that Apple is doing a netbook as a reaction to the severity of the current recession, but if Apple figured out that the economy was going to crash as hard as it did long enough ago to give it enough time to ready a netbook for a January announcement, it saw further into the future than most economists.)
Look, I’m not maintaining that Apple won’t announce netbooks at Macworld Expo, or even that it’s highly unlikely. I’ve speculated about what an Apple netbook might look like myself. The point is that speculation is speculation. And “triangulation” has proven to be a lousy strategy for anticipating what Apple is about to do. The company sometimes takes the obvious route. It sometimes takes a counterintuitive path. And there are places it just chooses not to go at all.
Anyhow, assuming that there is an Apple keynote at Macworld Expo–one has yet to be added to the show schedule, although I’ll be startled if it doesn’t happen–I’ll be in the audience, and will report on the facts. Once they are, indeed, facts…