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Report: Apple To Unveil Netbook At Macworld

Apple plans to announce a netbook-like device that will fill the gap between the iPhone and the lowest-cost MacBooks, according to a new research brief from TBR.

The new device will come in two sizes, one similar to the MacBook Air and the other to a netbook, with the smaller unit priced at $599, according to Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with TBR, Hampton, N.H., and author of the report.

Gottheil said the device will fit somewhere between netbooks and the iPhone, with a small form factor and a slightly smaller-than-normal keyboard. As with the iPhone, users will download mobile applications from Apple's App Store.

"It's a response to netbooks, but also to the generalized price pressure on PCs," said Gottheil. "We're also seeing a demand for this kind of controlled software and hardware environment. Many people just want something that works, without driver conflicts or hardware issues."

According to TBR, Apple would benefit from such a device by providing more inroads to its App Store, through which Apple says iPhone users have downloaded more than 300 million apps since its launch in July.

George Swords, marketing manager at PowerMacPac, a Portland, Ore.-based Apple reseller, said an Apple netbook has been rumored for at least a year and is far from the most pressing issue within the Apple reseller community.

Swords said Apple's refusal to allow resellers to sell the iPhone has been a major bone of contention, made worse by recent speculation that Apple is poised to begin selling the iPhone through Wal-Mart.

"People come to us all the time wanting to buy an iPhone, but we can't sell it to them," Swords said. "I can guarantee that a customer would have a much better experience dealing with me than with Wal-Mart."

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