It's not yet January but the rumour mills have been grinding exceeding fast over the past week. The focus, as usual, is the much-discussed Apple tablet. Suggestions that Steve Jobs is "pleased with the tablet" abound, and Apple's planned media event on January 26 is now tipped as the announcement date, with availability to follow in the summer.
Interestingly, MacRumors announced a scoop on Christmas Eve: that Apple purchased the iSlate.com domain in 2007. And yesterday, along with Santa, TechCrunch added some credible flesh to the bare bones. The background is fascinating and the evidence is certainly looking strong. Apparently Apple also own iSlate.co.uk, to cover the company's second most important overseas market, as well as many other variations on the iSlate domain log. TechCrunch goes so far as to predict that Apple's new offering will be called the iSlate. Not to be outdone, MacRumors today finds proof that Apple own a company registered as Slate Computing LLC. The implication is that Apple has done this to secure the iSlate trademark. A similar operation was implemented prior to the iPhone launch.
So the vapourware is beginning to take on substance. It looks likely that the new device will indeed be announced next month and that it will be called the iSlate. If it isn't, a lot of commentators will have egg on their faces.
There have also been many hints that the new device, whatever it is called, will provide owners with a new way of interaction with the the computer. Engadget today reveals details of Apple's patent application from a multi-touch tactile keyboard. Could this be something we will see as part of the iSlate package?
One thing does seem certain, however. The new tablet/slate will be based on the iPhone OS rather than on OS X, as many had hoped. iPhone application developers have already been warned to start work on apps for higher resolution screens and this could pave the way for the iSlate as well as for a higher-resolution screen on the iPhone itself. From all accounts, although I haven't had first-hand experience, the current iPhone screen is looking a bit wan against the latest smartphone offerings from other manufacturers.
This is a new device, neither phone or pda, nor fully-fledged laptop computer. But if anyone can make a success out of a ten-inch-screen iPod Touch, Apple can. Just remember all the nay-sayers when the iPhone was introduced. Yet the iPhone, and in particular the app-store concept, has revolutionised the mobile phone (and hand-held computer) world.
We do live in interesting times.