Apple Inc. is rumored to launch a netbook computer with a touch screen monitor as early as the second half of this year in time for back-to-school sales, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The mini laptop computers will likely have monitor screens that are between 9.7-inches and 10-inches, an unnamed source told Dow Jones.

Another person added, Other specifications and functions are still under evaluation.

Apple is apparently working with Taiwan's Wintek to make the touch-screens and Quanta Computer, the world's largest notebook maker by revenue, to assemble the new netbooks.

Last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he was not tremendously worried the slump will drive customers to less-expensive PCs and away from their pricier brand.

Jobs also infamously said that we don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk.

Netbooks are primarily designed for Internet browsing and mobile computing. They also cost less than conventional laptop computers, and are smaller in size and are lighter.

A series of other PC makers including Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard Co. have entered the netbook market segment in recent months. The companies are hoping to tap new computer users in emerging markets.

Apple is unlikely to make very cheap products. The netbook would most likely be very niche, meaning volume is going to be small, said Yuanta Securities analyst Vincent Chen.