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New Apple tablet rumors point to Kindle clones?

Rumors of an Apple tablet or Netbook have been all over the place lately, but is Apple scanning books for a possible e-book store or reader as well?

Could Apple have an e-book reader in mind with the 10-inch screens rumored for a large-scale iPod Touch? CNET

More Apple tablet/Netbook rumors surfaced Wednesday as one Apple watcher wonders what the company is doing with all those books.

Reuters is reporting that Apple has ordered 10-inch touch screens from Wintek, a contract manufacturer in Taiwan that makes the touch screens used in the iPhone and iPod Touch. The screens are expected to be ready by the third quarter of this year, setting the stage for a possible late 2009 introduction of the long-rumored Apple tablet and/or Netbook.

But one interesting possibility for that rumored device comes from longtime Apple writer Andy Ihnatko, who is wondering if Apple has some sort of Kindle clone in mind. Ihnatko told Newsarama that he has heard several times that Apple has been receiving truckloads of books--actual real paper-bound books--at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. He cautions that this doesn't "rank as high as a rumor, but it's an interesting story that I keep hearing."

The thinking is that Apple is scanning the books as to have a library of electronic titles available when it decides to launch an e-book section on the iTunes Store, perhaps accompanied by the iTablet or MacTablet Pro or whatever Apple appears to be cooking up in its labs that isn't quite an iPhone, and isn't quite a MacBook.

When Apple allowed Amazon to develop a way for iPhone users to get access to Amazon's library of e-books, it appeared the company was ceding the mobile computing e-book market to Amazon. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has dismissed the e-book reader and market in general, declaring last year that "people don't read anymore." But as has been pointed out many times before, Jobs is notorious for turning his nose up at a new product or concept right up until the day Apple ships a similar product.

Apple has taken a cautious approach to the fast-growing Netbook market thus far, saying that it is monitoring the situation but expressing concerns at the design trade-offs and low margins of most Netbooks.

However, it does seem people are interested in something that falls between a smartphone and a laptop, and if Apple was able to integrate a portable tablet computer, gaming machine, and e-book reader all in one using the maturing iPhone OS X operating system, it would be able to justify a higher price for that gadget and therefore better margins than the rest of its competitors.