Report: Apple 'Netbook' Coming in October

Apple Inc. this October will release a netbook that will sell for about $800 and sport a 9.7-in. screen, a Taiwanese news site has reported.

Talk of an Apple netbook isn't new, but the details from the story in today's InfoTimes fit the vision that analysts like Technology Business Research's Ezra Gottheil have had for nearly a year. (A translation of the original Chinese was posted by a commenter on MacRumors.)

"The screen size, the fact that it will be a touch screen, is pretty much along the route I think Apple should take," said Gottheil. "The price point, though, is pretty high if Apple wants to do with [a netbook] what I think it wants to do.

"But then, Apple has never been above squeezing early adopters," Gottheil added.

According to InfoTimes, Apple has placed orders with three Taiwanese electronics manufacturers -- Dynapack International Technology, Foxconn and Wintek -- for components that will be assembled into a netbook. Wintek, said InfoTimes, will produce the 9.7-in. touch screens. Foxconn is a contract netbook and notebook maker, and it will be the primary manufacturer for Apple's netbook.

Will It Have a Keyboard?

This isn't the first time that talk of an Apple netbook has fingered Wintek as a possible supplier. Last March, the Dow Jones financial news service reported that Wintek was working with Apple and another major netbook/notebook maker, Quanta Computer, on a netbook. At the time, Dow Jones said that the netbook would sport a Wintek touch screen in the 9.7-to-10-in. range, and launch later in the year.

InfoTimes's report of an October release sounds right to Gottheil. "That's in the right time frame if they want to sell a lot before the end of the year," he said, referring to the holiday selling season that starts the following month.

But if Apple is thinking of selling something without a keyboard, Gottheil thinks Apple's off its rocker. "A keyboard is fairly important to this," he argued. "Maybe not included with it, but one has to be able to connect one to it. Maybe Apple even sells it separately."

Analyst: An 'iPod on Steroids'

Gottheil also took issue with the idea that this would be a challenger to the far-cheaper netbooks now powered by Windows, and which Google Inc. has in its sights with Chrome OS. "Think of this not as a PC, but as a device, as an appliance that can do the things netbooks do, like checking e-mail and browsing the Web. But you don't compare it to a netbook."

It's not the screen size -- at 9.7-in., Apple's would be identical to the screen in Amazon.com Inc.'s second-generation e-reader, Kindle DX -- that defines what Gottheil sees as category separate from netbooks. Instead, it's how Apple will encircle the device with its own ecosystem wall, as it has with the iPhone.

"I think this will use something more like the iPhone operating system than the Mac OS [on a notebook]," Gottheil said. "and it will have something like the [iPhone's] App Store." The latter, he speculated, is important to Apple not so much to make money -- it currently takes a 30% cut of all App Store revenue -- but because of the control it gives the company over what goes on an $800 "netbook."

"Having that control is really important to them," said Gottheil, "especially as a way to cut off any security problems. They would not want to ever see a virus on something like this."

But Gottheil was sticking to his "iPod on steroids" vision of whatever Apple introduces to fill the gap between the top-end iPhone and the low-end MacBook Pro. "That's more likely, I think, than a traditional netbook," he said. "Even outside of Apple, this has to happen. PCs, even Macs, are a combination of a professional tool and a hobbyist's device."

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