I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

The rumored Apple mini-notebook/big-iPhone

I’m having a hard time believing anything I’ve heard so far, mostly because I can’t really see why any of these devices would be particularly compelling for many users or good for Apple’s product line.

Business Week:

Verizon Wireless is in talks with Apple to distribute two new iPhone-like devices, BusinessWeek has learned. … One device is a smaller, less expensive calling device described by a person who has seen it as an “iPhone lite.”

Apple has previously said that they don’t intend to make a phone that doesn’t run the iPhone OS, and their goal is to keep making the iPhone itself more affordable. I don’t see Apple starting a mass-market iPhone model that doesn’t run the iPhone OS — they’re reducing non-iPhone-OS devices, not adding them. (For example, I doubt there will be any more meaningful updates to the iPod Classic, and that line will probably cease production within 2 years.)

Possible explanations: Verizon’s releasing another bad iPhone copycat by another company and there’s a lot of talk around it internally that mentions the iPhone, or Apple was negotiating with Verizon to try to get a nice subsidy for a future LTE iPhone to have low price with 2-year contracts.

The other is a media pad that would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos, the person says. It would place calls over a Wi-Fi connection. [The BusinessWeek video report further elaborated to say that it’s between a mobile phone and a netbook in size, similar to the Kindle’s size.]

This is similar to Craig Hockenberry’s Front Row To Go idea with the added Verizon/WiFi-calling component, but there are a number of problems with such a device:

It would be uncomfortable to place calls with a device this size. You couldn’t hold it up to your ear, so you’d have to use the earbuds and mic or a wireless headset. Then what do you do with the device while you’re on the phone? Where do you put it? Are these video calls? Are you holding the device the whole time?

Why do they need to talk to Verizon about it? If they’re building in cellular internet service, why wouldn’t they release it for AT&T instead? A Verizon (CDMA/EVDO) data device couldn’t be sold anywhere else in the world, and Tim Cook sure sounded like he wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.

Which OS does it run?

What will it cost? It’s probably safe to assume that the larger screen (which, keep in mind, is a touchscreen) and required larger battery with a useful amount of storage will probably require that it costs more than the iPod Touch ($230-400). This is especially true if it has significantly more DRAM and processing power, which is likely for some of its assumed roles and distinction from the Touch line. But it also probably can’t approach the MacBook’s $1000 entry point for positioning reasons. So it would probably cost $500-600.

Who’s buying this thing? Is it really enough a market for Apple to invest any significant amount of resources into? Are there really that many people who want a $500 device too big to fit in their pocket yet too small to be useful as a general-purpose computer (especially without a keyboard), to fill a gap that doesn’t really seem to exist for most people, that probably won’t remove their need for a mobile phone and a laptop?

If this demand really exists, why hasn’t anyone else been able to have even remote success in it? They’ve certainly tried. For a while.

Apple has always found creative and amazing ways to prove my “they won’t do it” predictions wrong, but this one’s a hell of a stretch. This time, it’s not just a question of whether they can do it well. It’s a question of why they’d want to do this sort of thing at all.

I’m just not seeing how it all fits together.