Apple Tablet PC Expected March or April, Claims Analyst

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Apple’s rumoured tablet PC could be making an appearance sometime in the next four months, according to a research analyst

Apple’s long-rumoured tablet PC will be launched in either March or April, according to a research analyst.

So says Oppenheimer & Co. financial analyst Yair Reiner in a 8 December research note sent to investors, and the device will include a 10.1-inch touch screen.

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“It appears Apple will begin ramping production in earnest in February, implying that the tablet could launch in late March or April (barring production hiccups),” Reiner said in the report. “Our checks also suggest that the tablet’s display will be a 10.1-inch LTPS based LCD screen, not an OLED display as some have suggested.”

Furthermore, Reiner suggests, “the manufacturing cogs for the tablet are creating into action” and Apple “appears to be sizing its supply chain to support production of as many as 1 [million] units per month.” By late March or April, he adds, Apple would have the five or six weeks of inventory needed to launch the device.

Reiner’s unnamed US sources also apparently told him that “Apple is approaching book publishers with a very attractive proposal for distributing their content.” Allegedly, Apple’s revenue split with publishers will be 30/70 and will not be restricted by exclusivity.

From there, Reiner suggests that an Apple tablet would have a negative effect on Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader. “As innovative as it is, we believe the Kindle has disgruntled the publishing industry (book, newspaper, and magazine) by demanding exclusivity, disallowing advertising, and demanding a wolfish cut of revenue.” The tablet, he says, “is set to change that. It should also make ebooks more relevant for education by simplifying functions such as scribbling marginalia.”

E-readers from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other manufacturers have been experiencing a robust holiday season, with Amazon.com claiming high sales numbers and Barnes & Noble insisting that shipments of its own e-reader, the Nook, are delayed due to demand.

Oppenheimer does business with the companies described in its research reports, and states that it could have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of said reports. “Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision,” reads the boilerplate on the first page of Reiner’s note.

In lieu of official confirmation from Apple, which thus far has refused to confirm or deny the development of a tablet PC, all analyst suggestions should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. Other analysts’ hypotheses correlate with Reiner’s, but their ideas about form factor and other details are also extraordinarily broad: For example, both Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster and RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky have suggested a device with a touch screen ranging between 7 and 10 inches, with 3G connectivity.

But different analysts have voiced differing opinions about other aspects of the potential device. Munster, in his analysis, posited that the tablet PC will retail for somewhere in the $500-$700 (£308 – £430) range and sell 2 million units in its first year of release.

By contrast, Reiner suggests a tablet retail price of $1,000 (£616).

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