Apple will stay true to its word and snub the netbook market, according to a Wall Street Analyst who predicts that the company is in the process of designing a tablet-like device instead. See: Steve Jobs launches Apple iPad: full details

Gene Munster, a senior analyst for Piper Jaffray, cites sources in Asia and recent Apple patents relating to multi-touch in claiming an Apple tablet PC will launch next year.

"Between indications from our component contacts in Asia, recent patents relating to multi-touch sensitivity for more complex computing devices, comments from [Apple acting CEO]Tim Cook, and Apple's acquisition of PA Semi along with other recent chip-related hires, it is increasingly clear that Apple is investing more in its mobile computing franchise," said Munster in a note delivered to clients this week.

Munster predicts that the Mac OS X-based Apple tablet will feature a 7in - 10in touchscreen that's optimised for multi-touch, describing the device as a "sort of hybrid between the iPhone and the Mac".

"We are anticipating a new category of Apple products with an operating system more robust than the iPhone's but optimised for multi-touch, unlike Mac OS X," said Munster

Apple has been widely rumoured to be working on a netbook to compete with the wide range of cheap, lightweight laptops that have hit the market over the past two years.

However, Apple boss Steve Jobs has previously criticised the netbook format and said his company wouldn't know how to make a $500 laptop that wasn't "a piece of junk".

"As best as we can tell, there's not a lot of them [netbooks] getting sold," he said last October.

See also:

Apple MacBook reviews

Netbook reviews