Apple Instant-on Computers? Not Likely, But Here's Another Idea (AAPL)

Nov.24.05 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

By Carl Howe

Seth Jayson over at the Motley Fool has a fascinating speculation that Apple's suddenly voracious appetite for NAND Flash RAM (that's solid state memory that doesn't go away on power down -- these are the storage chips in the iPod nano) is to build instant-on computer systems based upon Intel's Robson technology.

I'm not sure this really makes sense. Is instant-on a major marketing benefit for Apple customers? I don't know about you, but I don't reboot my Powerbook for days and often weeks at a time. When I'm not using it, it goes to sleep. When I want to use it, I open the cover and it works. Boot-up time is not one of the top 10 issues I'm always wishing Apple would work on.

Conventional wisdom is that all this flash memory is for iPod nanos and the like. That is possible. After all, projections are for Apple to sell about 14 million iPods in December alone, and current indications are that that will not be enough to satisfy demand. But given this deal runs through 2010, I don't think that's enough reason for Apple to pony up $1.25 billion in advance to guarantee flash supplies.

No, I think Seth is right, but that the consumer benefits being targeted aren't instant-on, but more physical attributes. I'm betting on a new Intel-based Powerbook without any hard disk, just flash memory. It's less than half the thickness of today's Powerbook (i.e., about 0.4 inches or so), has a tablet form factor (that would finally make use of the ink capabilities built into today's Mac OS X), and would weigh about 2 pounds or so, and have a battery life of somewhere around eight to 12 hours.

As an aside, since most of the tablet is screen, it would make a fantastic movie player as well. The big value is not in the shorter boot-up time, but that Apple could make such a device incredibly thin without any disk drives. Yes, you'd need secure ways of loading movies and other media onto the device to watch them, but Apple has DRM and digital movie delivery systems (iTunes) that could handle that.

What do you think?

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