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Apple signs 'widescreen iBook' contract

More hints of HD-friendly kit to come?

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Recent rumours that Apple is preparing to update its consumer hardware product lines were given added weight today when sources close to Taiwanese contract manufacturer Quanta claimed it has won a deal to make a new, widescreen iBook.

The sources, cited by DigiTimes, said Quanta could begin shipping the new model in Q4 this year. It is not yet certain whether the widescreen version will replace the standard 14.1in iBook, which may be updated soon in any case.

The iBook line was last refreshed in October 2004, the PowerBook family in January this year.

The deal ends Apple's exclusive arrangement with its current notebook supplier, Asustek. Not that it need feel badly off. It has received fresh orders for 12.1in iBooks and PowerBooks, and - most interestingly - a 15.4in widescreen iBook, due to ship in 2006, the sources claim.

The news that Apple may be preparing widescreen iBooks plays to recent suggestions that the company will shortly begin branding certain consumer and high-end notebook and desktop Macs as HD models, the better to link the products to the emerging HD video market.

One of the objections to making such a move sooner rather than later, as has been suggested, is the high prices of HD camcorders - too high, it's believed, for consumers to consider them, but clearly in the range of professionals. That suggests PowerBook HDs first, followed by iBook HDs and iMac HDs later this year or, more likely, next year. Such a schedule tallies with the leaks coming out of Taiwan.

Apple does not comment on its contract manufacturer relationships, and neither, generally, do the makers themselves. That leaves the leaks as the only source of information about Apple's notebook production. Not that they're entirely reliable - similar sources claimed earlier this year that Apple will ship a PowerBook G5 in the current quarter. Q2 isn't over yet, but no one has their hopes up, given the efforts Apple has had to go to keep the G5 chip cool in its desktops.

We shall see. ®

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