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Taiwan supplier fingered in Apple touch-screen netbook rumor

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A touch-screen netbook from Apple is coming later this year, according to a report by an Asian industry-watching website. We believe that the truth may be more interesting than the rumor.

Taiwan's DigiTimes reports that the Chinese-language daily Commercial Times has said that Wintek, a Taiwanese manufacturer of flat-panel displays, will supply their touch-screen displays for "Apple's new netbook," and that shipments will begin in the third quarter of this year.

DigiTimes also reports that the netbook will be manufactured by Quanta Computer, the company that, along with Foxconn, manufactures Apple's iPhone.

Although this rumor is quickly making the rounds of dozens of worldwide websites - The Guardian, for one - we advise taking it with more than the customary grain of salt. That is, if by "netbook" you mean an underpowered laptop with a tilt-up screen and an undersized keyboard.

Although netbooks are one of the few bright spots during the current Meltdown, Apple has repeatedly denied that it is interested in entering this low-cost, low-margin market. Steve Jobs has downplayed Apple's interest in the netbook market, going as far as to say "We don't know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk."

Acting Apple headman Tim Cook has also pooh-poohed the idea of an Apple netbook - but he also left the door open a crack when he was reported to have said that Apple has "ideas" for a netbook.

But what makes us believe that Apple won't release a typical netbook later this year or early next is the simple fact that the Wintek rumor refers to touch-screen displays. Add to that Jobs's assertions that the iPhone is already Apple's netbook offering, and it seems more likely - if the Wintek rumor is, indeed, actually true - that Apple is planning something other than a netbook as we currently know them to be.

Perhaps the rumors of a jumbo iPod touch or laptop Mac are finally coming true - though we've been down that road before. Perhaps Apple will (finally) bring to market an expanded iPhone based on one of its many touch-screen tablet patents.

As is their standard operating procedure, Apple won't comment on unannounced products - but we will: Apple won't release a "me-too" netbook. Whatever they're planning, it'll be something else entirely. ®

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