Apple Inc. plans to introduce a touch-screen netbook computer as early as the second half of this year, Dow Jones Newswires reported, a move that may give the company a sales boost as demand for desktops slows. The company is working on the laptops with Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc. and Wintek Corp., Dow Jones said Tuesday, citing two people close to the situation. The machines’ screens may measure about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters), Dow Jones said.
Apple may be looking to netbooks to revive sales growth, which is slowing as mounting job losses and tighter credit push consumers to reduce spending on electronics. Sales of netbooks, which cost less than other personal computers and perform basic functions, will almost double this year, even as the total PC market shrinks 12 percent, researcher Gartner said this month.
Jill Tan, Apple’s spokeswoman in Hong Kong, declined to comment. Carol Hsu, a spokeswoman at Taoyuan-based Quanta, and Jay Huang, a spokesman at Wintek, also declined to comment. Sales growth at Apple will slow to 8 percent this fiscal year from 35 percent last year, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut its estimates for iPhone and Macintosh-computer sales last week, citing a worsening economic slowdown.
Companies across the PC industry are grappling with the success of netbooks, which typically cost less than $500 and provide Web and e-mail access. The machines shot to popularity last year with sales of 11.7 million units, and shipments will rise to 21 million this year, according to Gartner.
Intel Corp., the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, began selling a less-expensive chip called Atom last year, using the product to create the market for netbooks. Analysts including Brian Marshall at Broadpoint AmTech in San Francisco have said Apple may introduce a netbook. Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has sought to quash that rumor, saying in October that Apple doesn’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s “not a piece of junk.”
Quanta is the world’s biggest maker of notebook computers. Taichung, Taiwan-based Wintek is the world’s second-largest maker of flat panels for mobile phones.