Despite the success of the netbook genre of mini-PCs, Apple has repeatedly stated it won't enter the market. But that's apparently not stopping Foxconn, one of Apple's most trusted manufacturers from making some of its own.
After being asked to develop low-cost notebooks by a number of Chinese telcos, Foxconn is reported to be developing up to five individual netbook designs. Interestingly the processor of choice isn't the ubiquitous Intel Atom, the chip at the heart of nearly every netbook yet made—Foxconn's going with a low-power ARM chip for the devices it's code-wording Qbooks, simply as a matter of cost. As a result, over at PC World they're calling the resulting PCs smartbooks with the core suggestion that a netbook is a netbook only if it's powered by an Atom.
That's just some silly terminology (confused by other definitions of smartbook, and by one of those dumb trademark rulings) but the machines sound otherwise pretty standard—Foxconn's said to be working on netbooks with 7- to 10-inch screens and is trying out a number of OSs, including flavors of Linux it's developed, Intel's Moblin OS, and even Android. And the really interesting news is the target prices: $100 to $200, which is beyond the lower end of the existing netbook offerings, and significantly less than Nokia's upcoming entry to the netbook game.
That's interesting because Foxconn is a contract manufacturer for Nokia, as well as making the Amazon Kindle, Motorola cell phones, and, most famously, Apple's iPhone and iPods. That raises the intriguing thought that after it's netbook-style Qbooks Foxconn may even consider a cheap touchscreen tablet version of the smartbook and beat Apple at its own game. It's a bit of a stretch, but definitely intriguing given the apparently-imminent arrival of many tablets, and Foxconn certainly has enough expertise.