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Students opting for netbooks over Macs?

updated 06:10 pm EDT, Tue August 18, 2009

Students favoring netbooks

The still-growing popularity of netbooks has likely robbed Apple much of its target audience for back-to-school Mac sales this year, a study from Retrevo found on Tuesday. Just over a third of notebook-buying college students, or 34 percent, plan to buy a netbook from any make for their return to class. About 49 percent of the total also specifically plan to buy a regular Windows notebook, leaving just 17 percent either buying a Mac or uncertain about what they will buy.

The discrepancy is almost directly linked with budgets, the researchers said. Almost matching the number of more likely Mac buyers, only about 18 percent of all buyers had a budget of more than $1,000 for their college computers. In contrast, a large 58 percent have a budget of $750 or less. As the least expensive MacBook costs $950 with an educational discount, the bias not only rules out Apple entirely for more than half of those asked about their plans but heavily favors netbooks, which most commonly sit between $300 and $400.

Retrevo claims the choices are primarily guided by a desire for smaller and lighter low-cost systems and particularly tries to draw a link to the current poor economy's limits on what students or their parents can buy.

Whether the results of the 300-person survey will apply broadly is unclear. Although researchers at the NPD Group believe that netbooks will represent a quarter of all portables sold in 2009, Apple was one of the few computer builders to post year-over-year gains in shipments as a new, lower-cost MacBook Pro line triggered a sharp jump in sales even with a minimum $1,100 asking price for student buyers.

Apple has historically refused to produce netbooks as it believes them too slow and usually of poor build quality compared to what it expects. However, Intel's recent creation of the Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) category partly eliminates these arguments by providing much higher performance while still nearing netbook prices. Dell on the day of the study's publication launched the Inspiron 11z at the common $399 price of a netbook but with a quicker Celeron processor as well as more RAM and storage.

by MacNN Staff



  1. George3

    Joined: Dec 1969


    seen it before

    Ah, sounds like my nephew. Had to have a PC because that's what his friends all had. Got it, then hated it. Couldn't wait to get rid of it and get a Mac.

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    In tough times...

    ...people will ultimately follow the almighty dollar. I can't say I blame them b/c tuition costs (esp. here in CA) are higher than they have ever been.

    Case in point: My tuition rose 20% almost overnight b/c of the CA legislature's cut of education funds. Moreover, 2/5 of my classes were outright cancelled due to budget cuts. Education is getting more and more expensive so I can't say I blame people for trying to save a buck or two.

    As far as Netbooks are concerend, I think they are a superb first-notebook-computer for students. Let them learn how [not] to treat a $300 notebook instead of a $1,300 notebook.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple take heed

    Budget isn't the only reason. Students who don't live in a campus dorm typically make one trip into campus a day. They must lug everything they need--textbooks, note-taking, and a laptop.

    A Mac laptop is too big and heavy. When I look at my MacBook next to my netbook-sized Jornada, I know which I'd be carrying were I a student again.

    If Apple doesn't have something up their sleeves that's as light and compact as a netbook and can do the work of a laptop, they'll soon be in trouble with students. Few people want to klutz with two OSs. If they have a Windows netbook for class, they'll have a Windows notebook back at their apartment.

  1. armac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    check before buying...

    From the Clemson Univ. Website:

    "Netbooks" are not a viable option as your primary laptop

  1. cacruden

    Joined: Dec 1969


    mac is too heavy?

    What the heck are students doing lugging textbooks around - I computer is light in comparison to a backpack full of books. If Universities have not moved to epub textbooks - then what makes you think they will teach you to think smartly :p

  1. shawnde

    Joined: Dec 1969



    300 people is not statistically significant. you need at least 1000 people for this to count.

  1. luckyday

    Joined: Dec 1969



    OOOH! Than that most be true. Clemson University is the bottom line when it comes to tech advice.

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    netbooks for school

    Unless you're in a technical/scientific discipline (engineering, computer science, biology, etc), there's very little you need a 'full fledged' notebook for. You want something that can connect to the interweb, check email, and take notes in class. Why someone would waste their time on a high-end laptop for such mediocre tasks is beyond me.

    Esp. in a setting such as a college where you never know when that laptop will become 'missing'.

  1. freudling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Palm Pilot/Newton

    This is actually where Palm Pilots and Newton MessagePads shine. Taking notes in class and in the library, offloading once you get home.

    But oh ya, only the really smart ones are going to use those light weight devices, because students now need to be constantly distracted with Twitter and FaceBook, so they need new computers with the power and facility to allow those applications to run.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The parents are

    paying tuition and they're going to cut every corner they can to save money. After all, the education is the most important thing and not some computer. So Apple loses out, so what? Not like it's the end of the world. They know who they're targeting for sales. Certainly not the poor. If Apple can get 10-12% of the students that should be well enough. Netbooks are not going to help U.S. companies revenue. I hope these $300 computers hold up for four years.

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