Apple and the netbook question

Given the phenomenal success of netbooks — small, cheap, lower-performance PCs — everybody wants to know what plans Apple, the only major PC player that doesn’t have a netbook offering, might have for the space. Netbooks are one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak PC landscape.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs openly dismissed netbooks.  And when the company was asked again asked about them on the conference call following its quarterly results Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook sounded similarly unimpressed. Current netbooks, he said, suffer from “cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware.”

“Not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. And so, it is not a space as it exists today, that we’re interested in. Nor do we believe that customers in the long-term would be interested in. It is a segment we would choose not to play in.”

Cook continued: “We do look at the space and are interested to see how customers respond to it. People that want a small computer, so to speak, that does browsing and e-mail might want to buy an iPod Touch or they might want to buy an iPhone. So, we have other products to accomplish some of what people are buying netbooks for. So, in that particular way, we play on an indirect basis.”

And finally: “Then, of course, if we find a way where we can deliver an innovative product that really makes a contribution, then we’ll do that. We have some interesting ideas in the space.”

Intel CEO uses the B-word

Intel’s first-quarter results may have topped Wall Street’s expectations, but it was CEO Paul Otellini’s use of the B-word–as in “bottom”– that seemed to generate the most excitement. Although shares fell when the world’s top chipmaker chose not to provide a formal forecast for the current quarter, Otellini’s words on Intel’s conference call should provide some much-needed cheer for the IT sector:******”In terms of demand, we saw a few important trends play out this quarter. First, we are seeing signs that a bottom in the PC market segment has been reached. I believe the worst is now behind us from an inventory correction and demand level adjustment perspective. We saw order patterns strengthen throughout the quarter. Desktop sales appear to have hit bottom first and have followed a normal — more normal — pattern since early February.”******”In terms of end-user consumption, the consumer segment has held up much better than the enterprise. This is particularly true in consumer notebooks, which continue to be the volume driver in this segment. Netbook sales continue to grow as anticipated, and are clearly incremental volume for us in a difficult market.”******He continued: “We expect business conditions in Q2 to mirror those of Q1, with some gradual recovering of demand and replenishment of inventories occurring as the industry sees increasing signs of stabilization and a return to more normal seasonal trends.”******Of course, no one is yet expecting a full bounceback. The plunge in PC demand was too swift and precipitous for that sort of talk.******When asked about a possible timeline for recovery, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters:******”Part of the lackof visibility going forward is what does the shape of this look like … over the next few quarters. The first step was to work through the excess inventory that was out there. I think that happened, it actually happened a bit more quickly then i was anticipating, that’s why my gross margin [45.6 percent} is a little better than what we forecast.”******”We’re watching carefully to see what the shape of this looks like as we get into the second half.”******The company forecast continued weakness in the enterprise market, which some say could be a roadblock to recovery.******”From the standpoint of profitability, the quicker enterprise recovers, the better,” said David Kanter, an analyst with Real World Technologies. “But from the standpoint of volume they are both are pretty important.”

Acer, Nvidia unveil pint-sized desktop PC

Nvidia and Acer on Tuesday unveiled a low-cost, full-featured desktop computer the size of hardback book, the first device based on Nvidia’s Ion platform.

The new Acer AspireRevo features an Nvidia graphics processing unit along with Intel Atom microprocessor. (Although they might sit comfortably together in the new PC, Intel and Nvidia continue to be bitter rivals in the chip world and battle each other in court.)

Nvida says the AspireRevo uses one-quarter the power of standard desktops and is 10 times faster than comparably priced PCs.  The system can do most things a full-sized PC can, including play high-definition video and games, share digital pics and Web surfing.

Nokia retains top spot on Greenpeace list

Nokia has retained the top spot in Greenpeace’s latest ranking of 17 consumer electronics companies over their environmental practices, while Philips and Apple made strides up the list.

Philips leaped to 4th place from 11th and Apple moved up to 10th place from 14th — best among the top 5 PC makers — in Greenpeace’s latest “Guide to Greener Electronics” report. Companies are ranked based on a number of criteria related to chemicals, e-waste and energy, and Greenpeace uses the report to help pressure companies to change.

Samsung moved up to second place from fourth, while Sony Ericcson dropped a spot to third. Sony rounded out the top five.