How will an Apple tablet stack up?

Further "details" are leaked to iLounge. If and when it does arrive, how will what Apple is working on compare with what's currently available?

More "details" have emerged about the supposed upcoming Apple tablet. iLounge says a trusted source has provided 10 bits of info about the device, including a notably specific announcement date: Tuesday, January 19, with the product shipping in May or June.

This potential product has been discussed ad nauseum . But Apple isn't the only one pondering this market . As more companies start offering their own versions of tablets in anticipation of Apple jumping in later , and as more tidbits leak out about what Apple might be cooking up, it's useful to look at how it would stack up with what's already available to buy.

• First, iLounge's source says Apple has created three different prototypes. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that two previous prototypes were killed for battery and memory problems. Though the iLounge source says the first version's 7-inch screen was judged to be too small, it doesn't give the size of the second version. The third prototype apparently has a 10.7-inch screen.

• 10.7, or really 11 inches when you round up, would put it on the small side of the better tablets-- according to our expert reviewers here at CNET --currently on the market. 7 inches, which was apparently dismissed, is the same as Toshiba's new JournE Touch tablet, and slightly smaller than the 9-inch Windows 7-based Archos media tablet .

• 10 and 11 inches is judged to be the so-called sweet spot of Netbooks. This is "not supposed to compete with Netbooks," but rather is supposed to be a media player and a "light communication device." That's exactly how Michael Arrington describes the tablet he has partnered with Fusion Garage to develop.

• It's supposed to look like an iPhone, but "with a curved back." Most tablets currently available look like a regular laptop that when the screen is twisted and closed converts to looking like a tablet. A slate-style design with perhaps one physical button, like the iPhone/iPod Touch would make it stand out.

• There will be an option for 3G networking. If it is like an oversized iPhone, that makes sense. Though most of the tablets available now rely on Wi-Fi. As Harry McCracken at Technologizer points out, the more interesting thing here is which wireless carrier will be supplying the service.

• It's not a Netbook, but supposed to be a replacement for full-sized books, magazine pages, and even newspapers. Plus you should be able to play games, view videos and photos, and surf the Web. As a result, the resolution will be "5 to 6 times" that of the iPhone or iPod Touch, putting it at 720p, or high-definition resolution. There are a few tablets, like the smaller Archos 5, that can do HD already.

• Obviously the biggest differentiator with an Apple tablet would be its software. iLounge's source says it would come loaded with iPhone OS. That will open it up to the App Store universe, which is growing exponentially . While other smartphone makers have developed their own online application stores, there aren't any traditional tablets with access to them yet.

• The gating factor here--which we've heard before--is Jobs. He gets the final say and it's been reported that he killed previous versions that didn't meet his standards. iLounge's source reports that there's still a 20 percent chance this latest prototype could be killed before its supposed January release date. Frankly, other tablet makers would probably be wise to be as circumspect about the pitfalls of this market. As my colleague Rafe Needleman pointed out in a column last month, there has never been a tablet that's been commercially successful. If the Apple tablet were a success, it would be the first.

About the author

Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.

 

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