While he said Apple [AAPL] had some "interesting ideas" about netbooks, Steve Jobs squashed thinking that his company would be entering the netbook market when he spoke at Apple's last quarterly earnings call, saying there are "not a lot of them getting sold". But the Internet never runs quiet, and speculation is increasing that a netbook-like Apple product may be on the way as soon as early next year.
And the rumored product may have an ARM processor purring under its covers rather than a chip from Apple's current CPU supplier Intel. ARM chips already power the iPhone, come in at a low unit price, and are significantly more power-efficient than Intel's low-power netbook Atom CPUs. Add in the recent acquistion of PA Semi—already chip manufacturers, and Apple's hiring of Mark Papermaster—IBM's developer of the PowerPC chips formerly used in Apple machines—and you've got a rich soup of data ready for the rumors.
Jobs' careful stepping around the netbook issue is easy to understand: Apple's MacBook laptop range is increasingly successful, even if it carries the famous "Apple tax" expense. The iPhone is a unique device in the smartphone market, essentially acting as a very limited pocket PC. And a mid-range and, above all, cheap netbook would run the risk of cannibalizing sales of either machine. Perhaps that's why during his version of this rumor Seth Weintraub at ComputerWorld is speculating the device will be a tablet machine, versus the mini-notebook styling of netbooks like Asus' Eee PC. Apple will have to power-up its innovative thinking design machine if it is to make this product a success, while keeping both the iPhone and MacBooks in the game—and an all-touchscreen mini-tablet computer certainly fits into this thinking.