Apple’s touchscreen netbook is probably real – just not a netbook!

I think Apple’s new device will look more like a Kindle than a netbook

Some Asian news outlets are reporting rumors that suggest Apple is working on a touchscreen device. This larger format iPod touch has been rumored for a while, and it’s said to be a “netbook” type device. The question is: How likely is it that Apple will release a touchscreen, no-keyboard netbook? My best guess is that Apple is indeed working on a device similar to that being talked about in the blogs today.

Just as it redefined the MP3 player experience (with iPod) and reinvented the smartphone (with iPhone), Apple is going to pursue the netbook opportunity. But it won’t be with anything like the cheap, anorexic laptops being sold as netbooks today.

When Apple COO Time Cook was asked about netbooks during his conference call with analysts in February 2009, he said that the company was “watching the space,” but he dismissed the idea of offering a device that had “smaller screens, cramped keyboard.” In other words, if Apple does make a device that sits between an iPod touch/iPhone and a laptop, then it would mostly likely be a touchscreen device.

Some other clues that point toward the development of this device are found in the user interface on the recently released Safari 4.0 Beta. Charles Ying, who develops for WebKit, notes on his blog the similarities between Safari 4.0 and the iPhone Safari browser.

“I’m guessing that multi-touch user interactions are more positionally accurate due to direct user manipulation. That might explain some of the slight inconveniences Apple is making to pursue a unified multi-touch but full computing interface. I don’t know if Apple’s Netbook will run full Mac OS X, but I’m pretty sure that Safari 4’s user interface will at least be consistent.”

At the same time, Apple is pushing hard on its web applications. The iWork web site and a much improved Mobile Me would make good companions for an Apple touchscreen device, whatever it might eventually be called. These developments seem to point to a device that could be broadly called a “cloud client.” (What makes a Cloud Computer.)

I think there are social and economic reasons why Apple will pursue this opportunity, as well.

Om ends with a note about connected devices that I agree with – even more so when I still was a road warrior:

If you read our past coverage, we are pretty bullish on connected devices and consider them to be be part of an uber-trend… I think these devices facilitate our inner digital nomad. There is one company that understands cultural shifts better than most, and that is Apple.

Following close on with Apple would be Google and Amazon. Those two happen to be firms that understand cloud computing better than anyone else out there.

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