Report: Apple to Release Touchscreen Netbook in 2009

Apple Inc. will be releasing a netbook in 2009, according to a published report. Dow Jones Newswire cited two unnamed sources on the manufacturing side, likely Taiwanese sources, who said the company was developing a touchscreen device with a 9.7"-10" screen for the exploding netbook sub-market of computers.

Reporter Wei Yi Lim said that Taiwan-based Wintek Corp. is developing the display, while Apple's longtime manufacturing partner Quanta would be manufacturing the device. Sources from within these overseas manufacturing operations have long been a major source for leaks on Apple's product plans, though those leaks don't always pan out when everything is said and done.

Dow Jones didn't report any additional details on the device, and said that one of its two sources said specifications and features were still "under evaluation."

Netbooks are small, light (in terms of weight and features), and usually cheap. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in 2008 that, "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk; our DNA will not let us do that. We've seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody, and you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy."

During Apple's Q1 conference call In January of 2009, Apple COO Tim Cook said in response to an analyst's question about netbooks, "We're watching that space. Right now from our point of view, the products in there are principally based on hardware that's much less powerful than we think customers want, software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displays, etc."

"We don't think that people are going to be pleased with those type of products," he concluded, but he then hedged with a, "but we'll see. We are watching the space. About 3% of the PC industry last year was in this netbook kind of category. So it's a category we watch."

We should also add that Apple released a video iPod less than a year after Mr. Jobs told shareholders that Apple wouldn't release a video-enabled iPod because, "It's about the music, stupid." The company has long denigrated product niches in which it wasn't competing until the company began to compete in that same market.

The subject of netbooks has been hot and heavy, especially with Wall Street analysts. Netbook sales have exploded, at least in terms of unit sales, and many watchers have called on Apple to release a competing device, demeaned the company for not having already done so, or, in the case of one analyst, actually downgraded the company's stock because Apple had not offered a strategy for releasing a netbook that didn't cannibalize MacBook sales.

Others have predicted that Apple could compete in the space by offering some sort of device based on the iPod touch product line, running the "OS X" that powers iPhones and iPod touches. Steve Jobs said that the iPhone itself was a netbook device, and the idea of the company releasing a touch screen netbook could well fit within this concept.

Time will tell, of course, and though Dow Jones' report is one of the more credible presentations of the Apple-is-going-to-release-a-netbook rumor, we wouldn't advise our readers to hold their breath waiting for it.