Are we really on the verge of the Apple tablet? Seems so, as the rumor mill has been working in overdrive lately.
First the mobile device has recently been outed as the iSlate — that is, if you believe the bloggers who’ve made like Robert Downey Jr. and put on their Sherlock Holmes hats. Thanks to some super-sleuthing by MacRumors and TechCrunch, the investigation has exposed that the URL www.islate.com has been bought up by a company that may be a cover for a mega corporation known as (you guessed it) Apple.
And the name ISLATE is trademarked by another company, whose business dealings have been impossible to pin down, but whose description and other details matches Cupertino like a glove. Naysayers are commenting that this is just a diversion, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the iSlate name is official. This could be true, but factor in that Bill Keller from the New York Times (which has been in bed with Cupertino for ages) referred to something called an “Apple Slate” two months ago, and suddenly this rumor has an air of authenticity around it.
The tablet, or iSlate, was once expected to be released by now, but the gossip mongers are now looking to Q1 2010 (with some sort of announcement possibly happening next month, in January). The reason was seemingly an issue with the touchscreen.
Apparently, the device was delayed due to weaknesses in the glass display. According to DigiTimes, Innolux, a subsidiary of the Foxconn Group that assembles the iPhone, is on deck to manufacture the tablet. It will be the main plant for the tablet touchscreens. (Another company called Wintek might become an alternate supplier later on.) G-Tech Optoelectronics, Foxconn's glass-processing subsidiary, has a process for strengthening the display and will implement it with Wah Hong Industrial, a Taiwan-based company that makes optical film.
Next month, all eyes will hopefully be on those glass screens, as the tablet — which has been the subject of rumors, including a 7-inch model or a 10-inch version (depending on which blogs you follow) — is expected to be unveiled by Apple late next month. March or April are pegged as the ship dates, thanks to a DigiTimes analysis of shipping schedules for Apple component vendors.
It looks like the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts in San Francisco has been booked for a few dates in late January, presumably by Apple. The stories are swirling around January 26th as an announcement date. And the New York Times spoke to current and former Apple employees, who claim that Steve Jobs is "extremely happy with the new tablet," which has apparently "hit the sweet spot."
On an interesting note, one former Apple staffer says that the ways users will interact with the tablet will be very surprising. Could that have anything to do with the reports that two Apple patent applications involved a tactile feedback keyboard? I can only hope. A keyboard with tactile feedback on an Apple tablet would be ridiculously sweet. So would an OLED screen, though there’s nothing resembling confirmation on that yet. Maybe that’s for the best. The price would be jacked up pretty high for that. And yet, I can’t help but daydream.
Now this doesn't mean all the questions have been answered, far from it. What operating system will this sport? An iPhone OS or a variation on Snow Leopard? How much will this daydream cost? Will it be 3G-enabled or available via carrier subsidy? What carrier could it possibly go to?
I know we’re about to see 2009 come to a close, but the new year still just can’t seem to get here fast enough.