There are rumors that Apple might soon introduce something like a NetBook. The entire substance of the rumor appears to be a manufacturer supplying 10-inch touch-screens for a future Apple product.

A netbook? From Apple? Sounds a bit too “me too”. Seems unlikely.

NetBooks are kind of a dubious product category. Running the usual desktop/laptop applications on a tiny screen is not going to be fun. Using a NetBook for email and limited web browsing is OK - but that does not leave room for Apple to be anything clever.

More likely Apple is looking at the success of the Amazon Kindle. This is a fairly distinct, and useful, product category. Amazon has put in a fairly substantial infrastructure, to make the Kindle a success. That same infrastructure could be re-used by Apple.

My take - a book-reader sized Apple product would consist of:

  • A Kindle-sized screen - but in full color.
  • Access to the same e-books as are used in the Kindle.
  • The same “free” access to content via cell-phone networks as the Kindle (though possibly over a different cell-network).
  • The same ability to play music and video as the current generation iPods.
  • Likely a built-in version of iTunes, with content-delivery over the same cell-network (or wi-fi), trimmed to fit the small screen, and extended to acquire/manage e-books.
  • No ability to place/receive phone calls (at least in the first iteration).
  • No ability to browse the web. (Or only as an added-cost service, which may not be in the first iteration.)
  • Might have some ability to use email - but I’d not bet on this. (Again, more likely as a later, cost-added service.)

Apple does not have a viable contender in the e-Book reader product space. In some ways this could be viewed as a natural extension of the the iPod, using iPhone hardware, taking advantage of the Amazon Kindle-supporting services, roughly the same product “shape” as the iPod, and extended for e-books.

My guess, in any case. :)