Since February, around the same time that rumors of a new iPhone cropped up, equally hot rumors began that Apple, in response to popular low-budget netbooks released by PC manufacturers, was developing a new tablet computer. The theory is that Apple will release the tablet as soon as October in order to coincide with the Christmas shopping season. Although the new computer did not make an appearance at the recent Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC), rumors persist that the device is being manufactured. To date, Apple has not commented.
Rumors about an Apple tablet computer are nothing new. In 2007, it was reported on CNet UK as being in development. Back then, it was reported that PC manufacturer ASUS was helping Apple develop and build the devices; however, all of the rumors proved to be false.
More recently, rumors have snowballed and become more persistent regarding a seven- to nine-inch tablet-sized computer. According to a China Times report, the tablet will be released in October and Taiwanese component makers are busy supplying parts. The device is expected to come in around $800. Recently, Gene Munster, a noted Piper Jaffray analyst, commented, “Last week, we spoke with a Taiwanese component supplier and continue to believe that Apple will launch a tablet, not a netbook, by CY10.”
Munster expects the Apple tablet computer to be below the $800 price point. If so, it would make for a formidable foe against netbooks from HP, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo. Many netbooks are slated to gain touch-screens for their end-of-year updates in anticipation of the new Windows 7 operating system, which will be released on October 22nd. Also in anticipation of the new Windows release, Intel is supplying the new Atom processor, code-named “Pineview,” which features a new hardware-accelerated HD video playback feature and other advanced features that go beyond current netbook technology. Intel is a CPU supplier of Apple’s entire line of computer systems.
“Apple will likely leverage its multi-touch patents to differentiate its product from the typical netbook. We are anticipating a new category of Apple products with an operating system more robust than the iPhone’s, but optimized for multi-touch, unlike Mac OS X. The device’s OS could bear a close resemblance to Apple’s mobile OS and run App Store apps, or it could be a modified version of Mac OS X,” the report from Munster reads.
Due to the lack of product between the 32GB iPod Touch (retailing for $400) and the low-end MacBook ($1,000), there’s an obvious gap that needs to be filled. If Munster is correct, that product will be a tablet Apple computer that either runs the iPhone OS or a modified version of Mac OS X. Many believe the device should be between seven and nine inches in diameter and large enough to have a resolution that would support playback of HD movies and allow plenty of room for desktop-style applications. The device would also feature built-in 802.11n wireless or even support for the 3G network.
Signs that point to the rumors being true include Apple’s recent interest in chip designers, including the company’s purchase of a low-power chipmaker called PA Semi over a year ago. Since touch-screen technology has worked so well for the iPhone and iPod, it seems logical that Apple would make a touch-screen computer.