According to a cavalcade of Mac rumor blogs and Web sites, Apple could be planning on releasing a touch screen tablet device as early as this October, pairing nicely with the expected Snow Leopard release and iPod updates.
For my money, the rumored device means more than it first appears. Yes, it will be yet another unique and spectacular device in Apple's lineup. Yes, it will likely drive competition to copy it. Yes it will be more expensive than people will want. And yes, there will be several people touting that it fails by not providing several features that they believe it should.
So what will it have? Reports suggest parts requests at Apple's suppliers include a 9.7-inch touchscreen. Taking that as what appears to be the only substantial evidence of this device, I would suggest that the tablet will be running the iPhone OS software - specifically designed to take advantage of the mobile gaming and application platform that has made Apple's App Store such a grand success since its inception a little over a year ago. It is possible that the tablet OS could have some minor upgrades from the typical OS, including a solution to resolve the screen size differences.
When looking at possible hardware inclusions, expect at least one USB port as well as a dock connector for syncing purposes and third-party device connectivity. Also expect to see the newly adapted SD card slot--a feature which could prove to be the device's most valuable asset (especially if the slot is SDXC compliant, allowing for cards to store up to 2TB of data). I would also suspect a forward-facing video camera, perfect for video chatting.
Most of the rumors suggest that the tablet will be around $800.00. I would suspect that a deal (possibly with AT&T or Verizon) would offset the cost of the tablet when purchasers subscribe to a 3G (or 4G) data plan. Look for subsidies in the $200.00 range, bringing the device to a very marketable $599.00.
The real winner is the business community though. With Apple's continued push to be Exchange compatible this device fits perfectly into the business world, effectively providing a stylish, sleek, and "it just works" tool for any briefcase. Let's not forget recent patent filings from Apple that suggest they are interested in micro projection hardware--perfect for presentations from Keynote. I mentioned the forward-facing video camera earlier, a necessity for the telecommuter on the go.
All-in-all, this is simply speculation, but the possibilities that a device like this opens up are endless. What do you think this device will bring? Would you buy it? What features should Apple include? Exclude? Let us know in the comments!
Read the Apple Blog report on the rumor of a tablet device as early as October.
Read other on this rumor.
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UPDATE: Added link to additional CNET coverage.Resources