The rumors are swirling--again--and this time they seem legit. With Digitimes reporting that Wintek will be supplying Apple with touch panels for a netbook-type product, the third quarter seems ripe for the company's entry into this red-hot space. Assuming the price isn't exorbitant (I'm guessing $799) what student wouldn't want an Apple netbook when heading back to school? Road warriors would also likely salivate over such a product. But the big question on my mind is whether Apple should go all touch or include a physical keyboard like other netbook makers.
It goes without saying that consumers will be willing to pay the so-called Apple tax when it comes to industrial design, a more intuitive OS, and especially the compelling touch experience this product will likely provide relative to other touch-enabled netbooks on the horizon like the Asus T91. I also imagine that Apple will expand the App Store to accommodate the larger capacitive panel on this rumored system, giving the Apple Touchbook (my name, not to be confused with the Touch Book) a huge head start over Windows 7 in the touch department. Even the new Safari is primed for touch goodnesss; just look at the new Top Sites wall of graphical previews for your favorite sites.
But what about everyday text entry? It will come down to product positioning. I previously criticized the iPhone's touch keyboard and have since realized that it's not only usable but miles better than any other touchscreen phone on the market. The copycats are just terrible. But even with a larger display, which would increase accuracy, and the iPhone's smart error correction software, I have doubts about a Touchbook's usability. Holding up a 7 to 10 inch device for more than a few minutes at a time would become uncomfortable, and I think people would prefer to have the screen angled like a regular netbook during notetaking.
For me, a Touchbook would have to have both a touchscreen keyboard (for quick replies, Twittering, and entering URLs) and a close-to-full-size physical keyboard for e-mailing, word processing, and crafting longer e-mails. Think I'm off base? Tell us what you think.