It seems like Apple ( AAPL) has finally seen the light and may already be in the process of creating one of those very popular, smaller, inexpensive portable netbook computers.

According to Dow Jones, we could see an Apple netbook as soon as the second half of this year.

People close to the situation say Apple is working with manufacturers Wintek and Quanta Computer to assemble the first Apple branded netbooks. Those companies currently produce netbooks for other companies.

Netbooks, as recently pioneered by Asus with their popular Eee line of computers, also are being marketed by Dell ( DELL), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Lenovo and others. They are small in size and computing power, but extremely portable.

Netbooks don't usually have CD or DVD drives inside, but do have Wi-Fi connectivity. Prices range from below $300 for models with seven-inch screens to more than $700 for larger-screen devices with more memory and internal storage that run on Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows XP. Netbooks usually weigh less than three pounds.

One industry expert is guessing that Apple's mini laptop computers likely will have monitor screens that are between 9.7-inches and 10-inches, while another says specifications and functions are still under evaluation.

Currently, Apple's least expensive laptop is its white MacBook which comes with a 13.3-inch screen, 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, a 120 GB hard drive sells and runs on the latest version of Apple's OS X and sells for $999. The MacBook weighs 4.5 pounds.
Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.