With the announcement last month of a major update to Apple’s iPhone OS (version 3.0), a lot more of us began to wonder about whether Apple would be scaling the iPhone’s interface up to something larger, perhaps netbook-sized. Keep in mind that the iPhone is running a scaled-down version of Mac OS X, which runs on the normal Mac product range (MacBooks, etc.). The iPhone update included the fabled copy-and-paste, more support for landscape mode in various applications, increased Spotlight functionality, increased functionality/access for the internal mapping functions/hardware, and official access to 3rd party hardware accessories, and a lot more, all of which would be handy/necessary for something slightly larger.
AppleInsider is reporting on a Wall Street Journal article as well as some past rumors/information that even while Steve Jobs is working from home after taking a medical break from Apple, he’s still overseeing a lot of the major projects currently in progress at Apple, including a device from Apple that is “smaller than its current laptop computers but bigger than the iPhone or iPod Touch”.
Back in October of last year, Jobs made some interesting comments about netbook-sized Macs:
â€œAs we look at the netbook category, thatâ€™s a nascent category. As best as we can tell, thereâ€™s not a lot of them being sold. You know, one of our entrants into that category if you will is the iPhone, for browsing the Internet, and doing email and all the other things that a netbook lets you do. And being connected via the cellular network wherever you are, an iPhone is a pretty good solution for that, and it fits in your pocket.
â€œBut weâ€™ll wait and see how that nascent category evolves, and we have got some pretty interesting ideas if it does evolveâ€¦â€
A few months later, in January of this year, during Apple’s first quarter 2009 financial results conference call, Tim Cook, who is filling in for Jobs, had the following to say:
â€œWeâ€™re watching that space, but right now from our point of view, the products in there are principally based on hardware thatâ€™s much less powerful than we think customers want, software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displaysâ€¦. We donâ€™t think people will be pleased with those products. Itâ€™s a category we watch, weâ€™ve got some ideas here, but right now we think the products are inferior and will not provide an experience to customers theyâ€™re happy with.â€
Since that time, there have been some major developments in “that space” that Apple woudl be watching. The market will soon have the NVIDIA Ion platform which provides the kind of hardware acceleration and performance Apple would want in an ultraportable device (and which would closely match the NVIDIA hardware already present in the MacBook and Mac mini line, simplifying some development costs/issues).
You also have AT&T, Apple’s partner with the iPhone in the US, offering a wide range of subsidized netbooks with 3G/mobile broadband packages. Finally, you have low-cost netbooks/ultraportable laptops that are selling incredibly well and gaining mainstream acceptance from both the public and brick-and-mortar retailers such as Office Depot and Best Buy.
The Wall Street Journal article mentions that Jobs was heavily involved in laying out iPhone OS 3.0, and Apple Insider mentions that there have been reports of Apple ordering 10-inch touchscreen displays. The price on touchscreen displays in the 9-inch and 10-inch range should be dropping this year, as devices such as the 8.9-inch touchscreen/convertible Asus Eee PC T91 Touch are produced.