Lies, Damned Lies, and Apple Netbook Rumors

The Web is rife with speculation about Apple’s rumored netbook computer, which, depending on your source and/or pundit of choice, either: 1) may have a touch screen and may ship later this year; 2) may ship later this year, but whatever it is, it’s not a netbook; 3) may not exist at all.

Monday’s rumor, courtesy of the Chinese-language Commercial Times, stated that Taiwan-based Quanta Computer would build an Apple netbook with touch screens supplied by Wintek. Tuesday’s rumor, courtesy of Dow Jones Newswires in Taipai, added this extra morsel: The alleged netbook may have a display that measures between 9.7 inches and 10 inches. Both reports say the Apple mini-note will ship in the second half of this year.

In the blogosphere, reaction is mixed. Those who find merit in the reports are speculating as to what an Apple netbook might look like. Om Malik suggests the device, like the iPod and iPhone before it, may reinvent the mini-note category:

“Just as it redefined the MP3 player experience (with iPod) and reinvented the smartphone (with iPhone), Apple is going to pursue the netbook opportunity. But it won’t be with anything like the cheap, anorexic laptops being sold as netbooks today.”

Over at Salon, James Kendrick’s predicts an Apple netbook would be equipped with a multi-touch display and a physical keyboard:

“…touch-screens don’t make for good typing devices, no matter how much attention to detail is given. First of all, you have no way to set the slate up for typing, flat on a surface is not conducive to touch typing. That’s a moot point anyway with on-screen keyboards making for lousy touch typing input devices. No, the Apple netbook will have a keyboard I feel certain."

The naysayers, however, will have none of it. An Apple netbook simply isn’t going to happen, some say. In a blog post entitled, “Get Over It! There’s no Apple netbook,” Computerworld’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols argues that while Apple may be planning a tablet-size iPhone or iPod Touch, that’s a far cry from an actual netbook. Besides, he says, Apple doesn’t wallow in the low-end of the computer marketplace:

“So long as Steve Jobs has a pulse, Apple will make the computer equivalent of Rolls-Royce cars. Apple doesn't want to make VW Bugs.”

Another doubter, PC World’s David Coursey, says that whatever Apple may be cooking up, it’s probably quite different from the mini-notes we’ve come to know:

“There is nothing wrong with Apple offering a device with a 7-to-9-inch touch screen, perhaps for $600, if the speculation proves out. I just wouldn't call it a netbook, though it might be a lot of fun to watch a movie on and could even be a handy way to show a Keynote presentation to a very small audience. A wireless keyboard could give it some work functionality, but it still wouldn't be a netbook.”

Personally, I’d be disappointed if the Apple netbook rumors turned out to be completely bogus. Something’s in the works, it would seem, and the question may be whether we categorize Apple’s mystery gadget as either a large-screen portable media player or a netbook computer.

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