According to speculation by Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research, Apple will announce a netbook at Macworld. His vision is one of a computer platform supporting the App Store:
[The device] will provide Web access, email, media playing, and essential applications at a single low price. Computer beginners will be able to start using it quickly and easily. Users will have fewer questions, problems, conflicts and security breaches, as the device will be less intimidating than both PCs and Macs. As with the iPhone, iTunes and the App Store will offer an array of content, applications and games. As with the iPhone, the software can be rebuilt from the App Store. With an optional online backup service, the entire device can be restored…. Because all applications are delivered through the iTunes App Store, Apple will maintain sustained relationships with users, making it easier to upsell and cross-sell to existing customers.
It's an interesting, be it Utopian, vision of a future Apple product. And the idea makes sense from a platform perspective—Apple could do for computer software what iTunes has done for music and iPhone apps already.
But where Gottheil's argument is particularly convincing is the point where he conveniently (and intelligently) abandons any discussion of form factor. Because it's hard to imagine Apple developing any laptop under 12 inches. And while the oversized iPhone/iPod touch tablet idea sounds pretty great at first, such a product seems to outgrow netbook category once you factor in the costs (both in price and power draw) associated with a large multi-touch screen.
Digital Daily's John Paczkowski is quick to evoke the words of Jobs himself from October's iPod event:
There are some customers which we chose not to serve. We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that.
Gottheil's reconciliation with that point? He thinks the computer will run you $599.
Given iSupply's $173 manufacturing price estimate of the 8GB iPhone 3G, maybe a $599 8ish-inch "Netbook touch" isn't technically insane..but it's hard to imagine given Apple's preference for high profit margins. [Digital Daily]