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With today's announcement that more than 10% of the world's smartphones are iPhones, it seems as if there's no market Apple can't crack. But for many of us, there remains one obvious market which they have yet to pounce on, netbooks. These cheap, ultra-portable notebooks aim to replace the hefty laptop we carry around with us. Everyone from Google to Dell is jumping on the netbook bandwagon.
Apple COO, Tim Cook has denied Apple's interest in launching such a device in the immediate future. Cook ridiculed netbooks for having "software that's not good, cramped keyboards and small displays", his comments echoing those regarding the idea of an iPhone nano: "Our goal is not to be the unit share leader.. it is to build the best phone." Despite this clear refusal to compromise on functionality for the sake of size both with the iPhone and with notebooks Cook did not completely deny the idea of an Apple netbook in the future. He told reporters that netbooks are "a category that we watch, we've got some ideas here but right now we think the products are inferior".
However, over the last few days, news has been trickling out of Taiwan that Apple has in fact been in talks with display and notebook assembling companies about some "new products." The Dow Jones newswire, claiming to be in contact with "two people close to the situation," gives support to the Chinese-language newspaper Commercial Times [Translated, in part, here] which is claiming that Apple has already placed several large orders for 10-inch touch-panel displays that could be shipping as early as the second half of this year. A company called Wintek is said to be manufacturing the displays and Quanta Computer is thought to be building the machine itself. In the last few hours Reuters has also staked its claim to an inside source and is echoing the Commercial Times and the Dow Jones. Precious little information is offered about the internals of the rumored device, but, if it does indeed sport a touchscreen, it would deal neatly with Apple's problem with the cramped netbook keyboards that we see today.
Could we be in for a sub-notebook device with touchscreen capabilities at this year's WWDC? Or, as has happened in the past, is this a case of mistaken identity, with a new iPhone or iPod touch revision being taken to be something else? Only time, and the increasingly unscrupulous Taiwanese construction companies, will tell.