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Apple's 'next move' is an HSDPA MacBook, forecasts analyst

MacBook... or netbook?

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Apple should pull out the stops and release a 3G-enabled laptop for network operators panting to get their mitts on a MacBook with built in mobile broadband connectivity.

That's what Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston advised the Mac maker today. Why? Because "many operators in the US and Western Europe would jump at the chance to cross-sell a cellular MacBook to their installed base of iPhone users, in order to stimulate ARPU" - average revenue per user.

"Mobile data and Web-browsing revenues from 3.5G USB dongles are rising fast in Western Europe and North America. They are a high-growth market," Mawston told Register Hardware.

"Bigger-screen or smaller-screen laptops with integrated cellular radios are a logical next step for Apple - and others," he said. "Such form-factors are within Apple's core competence and they could be quickly developed."

Such is the carriers' fervour for 3G laptops that Mawston said he believes this will be Apple's "next move".

When it revamped its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines just a couple of weeks ago - not to mention simultaneously announcing a revised MacBook Air that'll ship any day now - Apple didn't say anything about cellular connectivity.

Cellular MacBook Air

But Macworld Expo is coming up in early January, and any Apple "next move" is likely to be made then.

Incidentally, we'd suggest Steve Jobs' keynote at the show will centre on new Mac Pros based on Intel's Core i7 processor, along with a revamped Mac Mini, but that's by the by.

Apple's work on the iPhone has shown it how to successfully partner with carriers on a premium product, so it's not hard to imagine it persuading some to buy MacBooks and subsidise the price to the consumer through long-running airtime contracts.

Or perhaps they'd prefer something cheaper. An Apple-branded netbook, anyone?

Jobs did say at Apple's quarterly analysts call a week after the MacBook debut that the company had some "some pretty interesting ideas" about netbooks, though it was taking a "wait and see" approach to the segment. Maybe that should be rewritten as 'wait until we have the carrier deals in place'.

Certainly, supply deals with telcos are something other netbook vendors like Asus and Acer are very keen to establish.

Back in September, O2 denied it was about to offer free MacBooks as a lure for its mobile broadband offering, but that was at a point when World+Dog was forecasting an imminent MacBook relaunch.

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