Commercial Times: A Mac netbook arrives Q3

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Chicago (IL) – Despite Apple’s official “not interested” mantra for netbooks, our hopes for a Mac netbook are not yet dashed. Today, a credible Chinese paper, the Commercial Times, gave Apple
fans a new hope for a Mac Netbook — and possibly a shipping date as well.

This morning DigiTimes, citing a Commercial Times article, reports that “Taiwan-based Wintek will supply touch panels for Apple’s new netbook, and shipments will start in the third quarter this year.” According
to the report, “Quanta Computer will be the maker of Apple’s new netbook”.

Wintek on
its part would only confirm that it is currently involved in some kind
of co-operation with Apple that will see the two companies develop “some new products.” Wintek also added that it expects to ship components to Apple in the second half of this year.

Such a scarce description of “some new products” could mean other things besides a Mac netbook, like even a Mac tablet, an oversized
iPod touch or even a new Apple kid’s computer — though we doubt it. Whatever mysterious product this turns out to be, we can at
least conclude that the next-gen OS X version powering it will have broadly deployed multi-touch abilities, and probably a new kind of
user interface.

A netbook or a tablet?

The report says nothing of the display size Apple allegedly ordered, meaning either a Mac netbook or a Mac tablet
could be in the works. Readers should note that the Commercial Times
has been fairly accurate so far in their Apple reporting. While Apple
insists they’re not interested in competing in the netbook space, the
third quarter shipping estimate does fit nicely in Apple’s new annual
product cycles that have seen last Mac notebook refresh last October,
with previous refreshes around end of the third calendar quarter.

If
it’s an oversized iPod touch that we’re talking here, Q3 also sounds
right as the launch date as well. Another interesting thing to note from
the Commercial Times report is the use of touch panels. If true, it
might mean Apple is building a Mac netbook around
multi-touch technology, as would be expected.

Multi-touch comes to OS X?

It
doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the touch-based
display will probably be the central part of the user interface. Since
OS X Leopard only recognizes certain multi-touch gestures drawn on the trackpads
of Mac notebooks, the new suggestion of a Mac netbook could also mark
the arrival of the first OS X version, bar iPhone OS, that will be
capable of fully interacting with users via multi-touch user interface.

Finger-based interaction in a Mac netbook most likely means a new breed
of simplified applications with less UI controls, less complexity and
highly specialized for only certain tasks, similar to how the iPhone
applications are engineered. Stretching the theory further, we expect
the device to sport an App Store and SDK to allow iPhone programmers to
create and sell applications for Mac netbooks as well — as it’s currently rumored Apple’s netbook would use the same ARM-based Cortex 7 CPU as the next-generation iPhone is rumored to have, which could make Apple’s netbook something like an iPhone-on-steroids with longer battery life, larger screens, more direct connectivity and full access to the same software library.

The last call for a Mac netbook

Analysts,
investors and users are all calling for Apple to enter the market for
cheap, sub 10-inch notebooks also known as netbooks. According to the February ChangeWave survey,
netbooks are the only computer category seeing growth as all other
segments are in a downward spiral. Asus alone sold 4.9 million Eee PC
netbooks in 2008 and expects netbooks
to make up 30 percent of their notebook sales, which is estimated to be
25
to 35 million global units shipped this year (between 7.5 and 10.5
million netbooks shipped in 2009, an increase of 53% and 114% in
netbook sales growth).

You got it all wrong, says Apple

While Steve Jobs labeled netbooks as a nascent category,
arguing that the company doesn’t know how to make a $500 computer that
is not a piece of junk, the current operations chief, Tim Cook, seems slightly more open to the idea of a
Mac netbook — despite also bashing the category in the process.

“We’re watching that space, but 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.”
Some analysts think it is a high time
Apple produce a Mac netbook, citing drop in Mac desktop sales and
Apple’s focus on notebooks that are now making up nearly 70 percent of
all Mac computer sales and keeping the Mac business afloat.

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