Apple netbook: rumors will not die

It's IT Blogwatch Extra: we keep hearing rumors that Apple's going to make netbooks or tablets or... something. Could be a 7" or 10" touch-screen tablet powered by P.A. Semi, running a hybrid iPhone/Mac OS. Could be a baby baboon...

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Katie Marsal listens to the analysts:

Apple logo
Researchers for Piper Jaffray said Thursday there's mounting evidence to suggest Apple next year will introduce its own take on the market in the form of a tablet-based device that will sell for $700 or less.

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Will likely culminate with the launch of a touch-screen tablet with a display somewhere between 7- and 10-inches at a special event sometime in the first half of 2010. ... Would be consistent with management's comments that Cupertino-based company has no interest in catering to the existing segment for "cheap" miniaturized notebooks and its spoken desire to differentiate in a market currently dominated by cramped computers with razor thin margins and a subpar user experience.
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Dan Frommer emphasizes the wait:

Don't get your hopes up for one of those devices this year, Piper ... thinks they're not going to launch this year, as some had predicted.

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Some observers may be disappointed if Apple doesn't announce something this year. But the company isn't going to miss much if it takes a bit longer to roll the device out. While the netbook industry -- one of the markets this device would compete with -- is growing fast, it's still relatively small. Plenty of time before it really matters.
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Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "Ticks off the signs":

  • Apple’s consistent message that it refuses to launch a “cheap” portable netbook
  • Its gradual addition of multi-touch technology to all of its core products (iPhones, iPods and Macs)
  • Its acquisition of P.A. Semi along with other recent chip-related hires (making it increasingly clear that Apple is investing more in its mobile computing franchise)
  • Apple’s desire to differentiate itself in a maturing market before it’s too late (similar to the timing of iPod and iPhone)
Rumors that Steve Jobs was working on a successor to the ill-fated Newton date back to at least Sept. 2007, 18 months after a team of Apple engineers is said to have begun working on it. .
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But pla isn't buying it:

Tablets suck except for a very few niche uses... And even for those few uses, netbooks do the job cheaper and more conveniently. ... I'll consider this a completely bogus rumor, since Apple has better sense than to revive a dying-for-a-good-reason technology.

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Now, ... It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Apple try to jump into that market (though they will no doubt ignore the "sub $500" as a defining characteristic of that class of device). Perhaps (though by no means certain) even with a flippable screen, giving users the option of using it in notebook-style or tablet-style mode. But an outright straight-up tablet, not going to happen.
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And Loren Heiny sits on it:

Already, Windows-based Netbooks are making strides against Apple Mac sales. I can’t see this trend letting up between now and then. Plus, exactly what possibly could change between now and then to make Macs less expensive against let’s say a $400 netbook or a $500 notebook? Sorry, a $999 MacBook isn’t going to be it. Apple is going to have to bring down their cost of notebooks during this time. If not, they will continue to lose market position.

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Will Apple pre-announce anything at WWDC? I hope so. Am I going to hold my breath? No.
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So what's your take? Get involved and leave a comment.

And finally...

  • Baby Baboon

    Jonti Picking's latest irritating song to get inside your head all day

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter or FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: contact Richi.

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