Predictions on the Apple Tablet/Netbook

Here I am, on a nice Samsung NC10, according to a personal survey one of the most popular netbooks these days (every single netbook at dotMobi is an NC10!). I really wanted an Apple netbook, but it’s not coming and Apple seems reluctant to release one or at least according to their public announcements, the last one just a few weeks ago.

My own take on this is that they are still not happy with what they have and certainly they have no plans to compete with the 200-300 USD products such as the Dell Mini 9 (AMAZING price for a whole laptop).

If I look at the general Apple trends and the technologies they rolled out in the last year or two, I have a list of features that I think they will (or would) include in a netbook if they ever released.

Let’s start from the display which of course determines the overall size and is often identified as the main battery-eater. In line with the latest Apple products, it should be an LED monitor and should be 10 or at most 11 inches. Smaller than that you should use an iPhone, bigger you should buy a 13″ MacBook or MacBook Air. I am not going into the reasons why you would want a 10″ laptop, I’m using it just now and I know a lot of users that are happy with this size. Even though admittedly very small, it is VERY portable.

The hard disk will not be there or rather, it will be SSD memory. The MacBook Air had it since launch and even if expensive it has a number of advantages such as that it’s not a movable part (very important in an ultra-portable), uses less battery, weights less. Apple has already leveraged the technology and know exactly how to use it and what the downsides might be. The Dell Mini 9 has a ridiculous 4GB SSD, Apple should do something better, the Air has 128GB, for a netbook 80 or 100 might be enough even though these days space is never enough.

Now think about the experience Apple has with engineering design, casing of the new 17″ MacBookPros and the MacBook Air, you can expect that it will be VERY light and very thin. I doubt it can be much thinner than the Air, so I would expect it in the range or 1.8cm in the thickest point and the weight should be around 1.2kg VERY attractive.

The small details: no ethernet, wifi 802.11n, bluetooth, 1 USB. Pretty much like the Air.

I think the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix has an interesting UI, clearly optimised for such a small laptop with limited resources. I would not be surprised if Apple came with a version of OS X optimised for these power CPUs and small screens. It would be slick as usual, simple and effective, as Apple has got us used to. Could be touch screen, but I think it will not be, if you want tactile feedback it needs to be thicker than what you can get with an LED display and they will want to be able to say it’s the lightest and thinnest of all. I would expect a comfortable keyboard, or at least as much as it can get in such a device. I repeat, a comfortable keyboard and this should rule out a large multitouch trackpad that also acts as a keyboard, users still need tactile feedback while typing (did I mention how impressed I am by the NC10 keyboard?).

If you factor in all these specs, add the Apple premium price, it is going to be in the price range of 1000 USD (or Euro as they are pretty much the same at least in Apple’s mind). It’s a high price for a netbook, but Sony has already done that, they paved the way, consumers will not be so surprised by the price and I can see them queuing to get one. 1000 is still a reasonable price for a computer, do you remember how much we used to pay for laptops 2 years ago?