Apple Expected To Unveil Netbook At Macworld - InformationWeek

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Apple Expected To Unveil Netbook At Macworld

An industry observer says Apple will throw its consumer-friendly design muscle into the growing mini-laptop market.

Apple will introduce an expensive netbook at Macworld Expo in January, throwing its consumer-friendly design muscle against players in the growing mini-laptop market, an analyst firm said Tuesday.

The prediction by Technology Business Research is the latest guess by industry observers as Apple's highly anticipated San Francisco conference nears. Other reports, which fall under the rumor category, include a badly needed upgrade of the Mac Mini and a cheaper iPhone.

TBR analyst Ezra Gottheil believes Apple will launch two mobile Internet devices, one similar to the 13-inch MacBook Air and the other more like a netbook, which are typically sub-$500 laptops with screen sizes 10 inches or less. Apple, however, is likely to want $599 for the smaller unit, Gottheil said in a report. Both devices are expected to become available around midyear.

Like other netbooks, Apple's lower-priced device would provide Web access, e-mail, and media playing. But an interesting twist is Gottheil's prediction that Apple would offer an array of content, applications, and games through the App Store, which is accessible through the company's iTunes software.

If Apple launches a netbook, albeit an expensive one, then it would reflect how the market for the simple devices is too hot for the company to ignore, even though chief executive Steve Jobs turned his nose up at the devices during a teleconference with analysts in October. "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk," Jobs said.

If TBR is right, then tacking on an extra $100 makes the device worthy of the Apple name. But beyond price, the growth of the netbook market is likely the biggest attraction. Manufacturers this year are expected to ship 14 million units, compared with less than 1 million last year, according to market researcher DisplaySearch, which predicts netbooks will settle in at about 16% of the laptop PC market by 2011.

Meanwhile, Wired reported that it was told by an Apple corporate employee that the company would launch an upgrade of Mac Mini at Macworld, which starts Jan. 5. Such a refresh would be the first for the Mini since August 2007, a long time for a company that typically upgrades products every six months or so.

Despite the lack of attention, the Mini remains a popular item, typically falling in the top-five-selling desktops on Amazon.com. Wired believes the upgrade would likely include a silver aluminum case, a faster processor, more memory, and the option of an Nvidia video card.

Finally, the rumor mill has Apple getting ready to launch an iPhone Nano, a cheaper version of the popular smartphone. The story started with a report on iDealsChina.

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