Despite its current popularity, Apple has repeatedly said that it has no intention of entering the netbook market. Interim Apple CEO Tim Cook has even taken the opportunity at 2 consecutive Apple earnings conference calls to disparage netbooks for having tiny screens, crippled software, and cramped keyboards. And on top of that, the margins on cheaply manufactured netbooks are so slim that it makes little to no financial sense for Apple to compete in that particular market anyways.
But the demand for a computing platform larger than an iPhone and smaller than a laptop obviously exists. Over the past few months, rumors have been flying around suggesting that Apple would answer these demands with a touchscreen tablet device that would retail for more than the average netboook, but slightly less than the cost of a MacBook.
And now, adding even more substance to the rumor, comes a report from Gene Munster and Piper Jaffray which hints at an Apple tablet device based upon component contacts in Asia and other circumstantial evidence. In a note to clients, Munster wrote:
Between indications from our component contacts in Asia, recent patents relating to multi-touch sensitivity for more complex computing devices, comments from Tim Cook on the April 22nd conference call, and Apple’s acquisition of P.A. Semi along with other recent chip-related hires, it is increasingly clear that Apple is investing more in its mobile computing franchise.
The device’s OS could bear a close resemblance to Apple’s iPhone OS and run App Store apps. Apple could possibly introduce a second screen resolution into the iPhone OS software development kit, enabling developers to build apps specifically for the larger tablet device.
Key apps, like Safari and Mail, could make use of the larger screen resolution, making Apple’s tablet appealing for more extended use, but the company could continue to leverage its primary asset in mobile computing, the App Store, in this scenario.
In other words, we expect the end result of the expected product to be launched later but with more dramatic differentiation than the Street is expecting. Another important possibility for the tablet that we expect Apple to launch in 2010 is that of wireless carrier subsidies.
To be fair, Munster doesn’t really come up with anything that original. Apple routinely receives patents for technologies it has no plans on implementing anytime soon, and the blurbs about P.A. Semi and Tim Cook have already been discussed and analyzed ad infinitum.
Also, a 2010 release is so far away that it gives Munster plenty of wiggle room to adjust his prediction as need be. I’m not saying that the above report is B.S, but it’s important to keep one foot on the ground everytime one of these rumors makes the rounds.