Published: October 27, 2008 2:46 PM
By Franck Mée
It's been nearly eight years since Steve Jobs himself graced one of the quarterly conference calls Apple makes with financial analysts and industry insiders to discuss the company's performance.

This week, though, he came through loud and clear, and was doubtless as clean to convince investors that he is as healthy as Apple's balance sheet, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

Plucking just a few figures out of the update for the third quarter of 2008, it's clear that Apple is performing very well indeed despite the ongoing crisis on the world's financial markets:
  • Apple has already met its iPhone sales targets for 2008, shifting 6.9 million units against RIM's 6.1 million Blackberrys so far this year.
  • 2.1 million desktop and notebook computers have shipped in the past three months
  • 8% of web users do their surfing on a Mac, up from 6% from the same period last year
  • To weather the financial storm, should it need to, Apple has 25 billion dollars in the bank and no outstanding debts.
And the MacNet?

The conference call proved the perfect opportunity for analysts to raise the perennial question of when--or if--Apple is going to make its first foray into the netbook market.

Apart from suggesting that the iPhone, which has already outsold every other netbook, offers much of the same functionality, Jobs gave the stock response that Apple doesn't "know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk."

His stance towares an eventual foray into the netbook market was far more nuanced, however, with Jobs saying that Apple has "some pretty interesting ideas" and would be waiting to see how things developed.

Intriguingly, in this blog for the New York Times, John Markoff revealed that a source at an anonymous search engine had begun receiving hits from unkown Apple devices reporting a screen resolution in between that of an iPhone and the smallest MacBook.

As Markoff asks, is this a sign of the "iPhone 3.0 or the NetMac 1.0?"

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