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Apple tablet will 'redefine print,' says rumor mill

Book redundancy pegged for mid-2010

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Apple's oft-rumored tablet will appear in mid-2010, have a 10.7-inch display, run the iPhone OS, and "redefine print".

That is, if recent reports by Gizmodo and iLounge are to be believed.

Gizmodo cites a number of sources from the publishing industry who claim they have been in talks with Apple to provide content for a "new device" - almost certainly being Cupertino's much-discussed tablet/netbook/media-pad/ebook/whatever.

According to the Gizzers, Apple has hosted meetings with The New York Times, textbook publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin College Press, and "several executives from one of the largest magazine groups" to discuss moving their content to the aforementioned "new device".

Discussions have reportedly centered around providing Apple with rich content - text plus color images, video, audio and the like - that would be presented on the device using Adobe Air.

Although Adobe Air is currently promoted as a web-application platform, there's no reason why it couldn't also be used as the foundation for presenting content downloaded from Apple's übersuccessful App Store - or, for that matter, streamed from Apple's $1bn data center, now under construction in North Carolina.

Rich content, of course, could vault an Apple tablet's capabilities well beyond those of Amazon's Kindle, with its monochrome e-paper - if battery life can be kept within a reasonable range.

Adding fuel to Gizmodo's musings is a report earlier this year by Newsarama.com, in which noted humorist-cum-pundit Andy Ihnatko said that "trucks loaded with books" were appearing at Apple headquarters, where they would deliver a "big, big, big, big, huge load of books, and then the trucks would leave empty."

Perhaps Google is not the only Silicon Valley entity that's busily digitizing printed content?

Apple's purported discussions with textbook publishers is especially interesting, considering the scandalous prices students now pay for those essential items - not to mention the backpack-breaking loads they force students to endure. Although textbook publishers would almost certainly still demand premium prices for their content, the lack of printing and distribution costs that ebooks enjoy could cut publishers' overhead significantly.

But what would all this content be viewed on? iLounge claims that it has a "scoop" from a "reliable source" that details the upcoming tablet.

According to iLounge, Apple has produced three prototype tablets, with the current favorite having a 10.7-inch display. This "slate-like replacement for books and magazines" will, their source says, run the iPhone OS and thus have all of that handheld's app-running capabilities, including games, browsing, media-playing, and the like.

The tablet, it is rumored, will be available in two flavors: one with 3G and one without - essentially a Big Boy iPhone and iPod touch. Presumably, Wi-Fi connectivity would also be included.

While it's difficult to imagine holding a 10.7-inch tablet up to one's ear to make a phone call, Bluetooth could enable such usage. More important to Apple's business plan, however, would be 3G's ability to allow impulse buying from the App Store at anytime, anyplace - unless, of course, you're in New York City, where that "anytime" idea would be cut by one third.

The iLounge report is silent on whether current iPhone apps would run on the new device and at what resolutions. Nor does it make any mention of whether the iPhone's annoying one-app-at-a-time limitation would be jettisoned - a liberation we believe would be well-nigh essential to making the tablet a serious portable-computing device.

Interestingly, although the report mentions a January announcement and a ship date in "May or June," iLounge's source doesn't call the tablet a sure thing. Instead, "It is apparently awaiting a final green light from Steve Jobs; chances of it appearing in the market are believed to be 80 per cent at this point."

In other words, there's a 20 per cent chance that this particular chapter in the long-running rumor-fest about an repeatedly imminent Cupertino tablet may still result in exactly what past speculation has amounted to.

Exactly nothing. ®

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