Apple roundup: Jobs-less meeting, to netbook or not, and an iPhone rumor

(updated below) What better way to kick off a Monday than with an Apple roundup that includes a pretty weak, albeit juicy, rumor.First there's the look ahead at this week's shareholder's meeting, which will be the first without CEO Steve Jobs since his return to the company in 1997.

(updated below)

What better way to kick off a Monday than with an Apple roundup that includes a pretty weak, albeit juicy, rumor.

First there's the look ahead at this week's shareholder's meeting, which will be the first without CEO Steve Jobs since his return to the company in 1997. As expected, his absence has raised concerns again about his health. It's been just over a month since since Jobs announced a medical leave of absence to deal with a medical condition that is more "complex" than previously believed.

Also see: Jobs’ medical leave: right to privacy vs right to know

Expect shareholders to lob questions about Jobs' health and its impact on the company's future. Board members, aside from a statement expressing their support for Jobs, have been pretty quiet on the topic. Apple investor Ryan Jacob, head of the Jacob Internet Fund, told Bloomberg that “the company has a responsibility to let public shareholders know that the organizational structure will be sound if Steve Jobs has to leave for any reason." The amount of disclosure, he said, has been "poor at best."

In the meantime, at the financial markets, one analyst sharply reduced his earnings estimates for Apple, calling it a reflection of a "collapse in consumer demand." According to an entry at Barron's Tech Trader Daily, Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargraves said he doesn't expect to see significant price cuts or for the company to shift its strategy and enter the low end of the market (read: netbooks). Instead of cheaper or nano-sized iPhone, look for innovation at the chip level and improved battery life, he says.

The blog also posts the opinion of a different analyst who sees it differently. Broadpoint Amtech analyst Brian Marshall. thinks that Apple is likely to introduce a netbook - likely around the $599 price point - before the end of the year. He maintains that continued expansion is "crucial" and that the battle ground is netbooks. Such a product, he said, could boost profits by 15 cents this year and 40 cents next year, he said.

Also see: Apple: If you don’t “do cheap”, let someone else do it instead

Finally, a blog entry on ITExaminer.com, citing "Deep throat" sources inside Apple, reports that "iPhones for Verizon Wireless will be announced soon." There's not much meat to the report - other than piece-mealing the speculation - but I'd like to believe that it's true. I gave the iPhone a test run last month and ended up returning - not because of the phone but because the AT&T service was pretty bad where I am. Instead, I stayed with the more reliable Verizon Wireless.

Not a very solid rumor, but it's I'm rootiing for.

update: CNET has issued a correction to its version of the rumor about the iPhone coming to Verizon Wireless. It turns out that one of the sources for that rumor was a blog post from last fall that resurfaced over the weekend. Interestingly enough, the ITExaminer.com blog post - which is where this buzz started - has not issued a correction. It reportedly had its own unnamed sources.

That's the thing about rumors. You have to take them for what they are - rumors. Still, just because the blog post being referenced is old - a September 2008 entry on the 9to5Mac blog, in this case - doesn't mean that it's not still relevant. A lot of the points raised in that blog post aren't so aged that they're outdated. The blog suggests that the Verizon iPhone woudl be announced in 2009 - and it's not even March yet. It could still happen.

And, as I pointed out above, it's a weak rumor. But it's also one that the blogosphere is anxious to report. That alone should say something about the attention that a Verizon Wireless iPhone might receive if either company wants to make that announcement anytime soon.