Apple Plans Major Product Launch In January

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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The rumour mill has gone into overdrive after reports said that Apple has booked a venue in California for a major product launch, slated for 26 January

There is speculation that Apple’s long rumoured tablet device could finally make an appearance, after Apple reportedly booked a venue for a major product launch on 26 January.

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Apple has apparently rented a stage at Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco. The report in the Financial Times blog quoted unnamed inside sources who said Apple rented the stage for several days toward the end of January, in preparation for “a major product announcement” on 26 January.

Other recent reports, including a research note by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who said there is a 75 percent likelihood that Apple will have an event in January and a 50 percent chance that it would be held to launch the Apple Tablet, and a report in the Wall Street Journal which said Apple is briefing major media companies like CBS and Disney on a tablet-like device, suggest Apple may release the device during the first quarter of 2010.

Earlier this year, Munster issued a report suggesting that the tablet would feature a 7- to 10-inch screen and retail for between $500 (£312) and $700 (£438), effectively filling a strategic gap for Apple between the iPod Touch and its low-end Mac desktops.

Munster wrote, “We believe an Apple tablet would be priced 30 to 50 percent below the $999 (£624) MacBook, and would offer best-in-class web, email and media software. In other words, we believe Apple’s tablet would compete well in the netbook category even though it would not be a netbook.”

Munster suggested that an Apple tablet’s operating system would resemble either the iPhone OS, with multitasking capability and applications designed specifically for a device with a larger screen, or else a multitouch-enabled version of Mac OS X. However, he wrote, “We expect Apple to build on the multitouch technology built into the iPhone and iPod Touch along with the App Store ecosystem, with an OS more comparable to the iPhone’s, not the Mac’s.”

Apple may also integrate a mobile data feature such as 3G wireless into the device, and could even subsidise the device through a wireless carrier, Munster added. He cited the trend toward subsidised netbooks, for example Verizon’s partnership with Hewlett-Packard to carry the HP Mini 1151NR. The Apple tablet could also challenge Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader if Apple accompanies the device with a push to sell digital books through the iTunes store.