Apple executives have repeatedly denied that the company is working on a netbook. But they’ve also repeatedly dropped hints that they could be working on something that will compete with netbooks. Today’s rumor comes courtesy of Business Week, which reports that Apple is negotiating with Verizon Wireless to carry two devices: A small iPhone-like device for making calls, and a handheld media tablet for interacting with music, photos, and videos.
This rumor is interesting for two reasons. First, Apple currently has an exclusive deal with AT&T to carry the iPhone. That contract won’t run out until next year, but Apple could work on deals with other companies to distribute new wireless devices.
And it would also explain what Apple’s been doing with all of those touch panels the company has supposedly ordered. Business Week says the media pad is smaller than an Amazon Kindle, but has a touchscreen display larger than the Kindle screen. The magazine cites a source who has seen the device, saying that Apple has something really cool on their hands and could control the media pad market — which wouldn’t be hard because that market doesn’t really exist right now.
I’d also be pretty disappointed if this is what Apple thinks it takes to compete in the netbook space. The reason netbooks have succeeded over the past few years is because they let you do 90% of the things you expect to be able to do with a computer without costing an arm and a leg. They’re more functional than the Windows CE handheld PCs of yesteryear, and cheaper than full featured ultraportables that used to cost $1500 or more. If Apple releases a machine made for entertainment and not work (without a keyboard), it might appeal to some people who are frustrated with the small screen on the iPhone and iPod Touch. But I don’t think it will take any market share away from netbooks which can run modern web browsers, office software, and a whole slew of other applications.