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Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Dow Jones claims confirmation of Apple netbook

Sounding more like speculation at best, two anonymous sources have reportedly confirmed to Dow Jones that Apple is planning to launch a touchscreen netbook in the second half of this year.

The report describes the sources only as "two people close to the situation."

One such person claimed the display would be "between 9.7-inches and 10-inches" while the other said specifications and functions are still "under evaluation."

The second source also said Apple is working with Taiwanese display manufacturer Wintek Corp. and the world's largest notebook maker Quanta to assemble the new machines.

The involvement of both companies would seem to corroborate a Commercial Times report that also claimed Wintek is involved.

"Wintek revealed that it is currently working with Apple to develop some new products, but it said it does not know what applications the new products are for," wrote DigiTimes in its coverage. "Wintek added that no shipment schedule has been worked out yet, but shipments are likely to begin in the second half of the year."

Commercial Times also pointed to Quanta as the would-be manufacturer.

As noted yesterday, the move would contradict comments from Apple executives who have downplayed the sub-$600 market for notebooks.

Chief executive Steve Jobs once said it isn't in Apple's DNA to know how to make a computer at such a low price point "that isn't a piece of junk," while operating officer Tim Cook said in January, "It's a category we watch, we've got some ideas here, but right now we think the products are inferior and will not provide an experience to customers they're happy with."

PC World's David Coursey in covering the story wrote, "Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the current MacBook Air would seem to fit most definitions of netbook, except for one. Why does Apple need another?"

Coursey went on, "It's a near-perfect netbook, except for one thing: It's way too expensive at its starting price of $1,799. There is nothing wrong with Apple offering a device with a 7-to-9-inch touch screen, perhaps for $600, if the speculation proves out. I just wouldn't call it a netbook."

While other manufacturers are seeing netbook sales growth, Apple could instead be reluctant to enter the low-margin, loss-leader netbook market, given its preference to build high-quality machines with accompanying higher profit margins.

It should also be noted that Dow Jones is not a traditional source of Apple rumors and therefore its track record in predicting future hardware offerings from the Cupertino-based company is close to nonexistent.