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Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 05:35 am PT (08:35 am ET)

Apple orders 10-inch touchscreens for mystery product

Adding fuel to rumors of a so-called "netbook" under development inside Apple, Reuters is now citing its own sources in saying the touchscreens ordered by the company measure 10 inches diagonally.

In a report published early Wednesday morning, the media outlet pointed to an unnamed source who said the Cupertino-based electronics maker "will take third-quarter delivery of newly developed 10-inch touchscreens from Taiwan."

The source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media, added the screens would come from long-time iPhone touchscreen supplier Wintek, which resides in Taiwan.

As was the case with the sources of a similar article run Tuesday by Dow Jones, the insider speaking to Reuters maintained no knowledge of "what the final product would be."

Speculation that the product at hand would be a scaled-down, budget notebook popularly known as a "netbook" was sparked earlier in the week when the Chinese-language Commercial Times broke the story on Apple's plans to acquire touchscreens much larger than those employed by its iPhone and iPod touch handheld products.

Although the source speaking to the Far Eastern publication similarly denied knowledge of the product for which the screens are destined, the report was syndicated by Taiwanese-based DigiTimes under the title "Wintek to supply touch panels for Apple netbook."

For its part, AppleInsider believes the new screens are more likely to turn up in a final version of the company's much-anticipated Newton/Web tablet, which has been under development for around three years now after facing a number of bumps and hurdles.

Members of Apple's leadership have been clear in their remarks about conventional netbooks which they feel are "principally based on hardware that's much less powerful than [...] customers want, software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, [and] small displays."

Last fall, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs referred to the segment as a "nascent category" while adding that to the best of his knowledge, "there's not a lot of them being sold."

That said, he noted that Apple keeps a close eye on netbooks, and even went on to tease that the company has "some pretty interesting ideas" should the segment evolve into something bigger.

Those same sentiments were echoed earlier this year by Jobs' right-hand man, chief operating officer Tim Cook, who has assumed day-to-day control of the company while Jobs takes medical leave through June to address a complicated nutritional problem contributing to his rapid weight loss.

"We don't think people will be pleased with those [netbook] products," he told analysts during a conference call. "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."

For more on the subject, see AppleInsider's Newton topics page, which dates back to September 2007, when we first reported word of a next-generation Newton-like tablet under development at Apple.