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Apple Netbook-clone spotted on Web?

Steve Jobs doesn't think Netbooks are quite ready for prime time, but some sort of device with Apple's signature that might fit that description is browsing the Web.

Lenovo's first Netbook. Might Apple be working on something similar?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs danced around the idea of Apple releasing a so-called Netbook on Tuesday, but such a device might already be in the wild.

The New York Times' John Markoff reported Tuesday that anonymous sources at an anonymous Internet search company (wonder which one that is) have spotted the tracks of an Apple device with a screen larger than an iPhone, but smaller than a MacBook, in their visitor logs.

That is by no means proof that Apple plans to release a small MacBook in the Netbook vein, but could be evidence that Apple's plans for this category are a little more concrete than Jobs suggested during Tuesday's earnings conference call.

Jobs called the Netbook category "nascent" during his rare appearance on the earnings call and suggested that the iPhone is Apple's answer to demand for a small Internet-browsing device. Still, he didn't rule out eventually heading down that road: "We'll wait and see how that nascent category evolves and we've got some pretty interesting ideas if it does evolve."

I've always thought that Apple has all kinds of product mockups running in its labs, such as a Tablet Mac, a Netbook, or a real Apple TV, but that those products aren't fully developed because the time isn't right, or the demand isn't there, or because Jobs thinks it looks hideous. It's not too hard to imagine that one of those might sneak onto the Internet from time to time, although it's also not hard to imagine the weird device showing up in the server logs as the result of some spoof.