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Rumor Has It: Apple Could Field $800 Tablet as Early as October

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Do I have $800 to spend on yet another Apple (s aapl) device that bridges the (relatively small) gap between my iPhone and my 13-inch MacBook Pro? Not really. But if rumors prove true and this October does indeed see the launch of a small tablet device priced in that area coming out of Cupertino, I will be hard-pressed not to find an excuse to pick one up. In my dream of dreams, such a device would also be Wacom penabled, but Apple rarely seems to take into account my opinion when designing new products.

Regardless, I’m probably better off earmarking that $800 as pretty much spent, according to new reports from Chinese tech news site Info Times. The site, which is renowned for reporting rumors and leaks on the supply chain side of Apple’s operations, is now saying that the tech giant is set to begin actual production on a 9.7-inch touchscreen device, aimed at competing with the netbook market. $800 is still a far cry from the $300 to $400 most basic netbooks will cost, but who’s counting?

The suppliers who’ve received orders from Apple for parts for the device are the usual suspects, including Foxconn, Wintek and Dynapack. Rumors have long been circulating that Wintek has been tapped to provide screens around 9.7-inches in size, so if nothing else, this latest rumor is at least consistent with previous ones. No other details about the device are made specific in the article, including whether or not it will also have some kind of keyboard, what OS or software it will use, or what kind of hardware specs it will have under the hood.

Let the wild guesses begin. For my part, I think Steve Jobs & Co. must have something fairly out of the ordinary in mind if they want to release an $800 device to compete in a market that really tops out around $500. Jobs once remarked that Apple didn’t “know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that,” but will consumers see the $300 worth of value-add that goes into this new device, should the rumored price point prove accurate?

I think that Apple is probably counting on establishing a new device category rather than competing with the netbook market. Basically, it looks to me like it wants to recreate its success with the iPhone by porting the same incredibly versatile software platform to a device more suited to browsing, video playback, and touchscreen gaming. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was compatible with some kind of keyboard peripheral, which would give you maximum portability with the option to add girth, along with productivity enhancement should you need it. With 3G-capable netbooks popping up in deals with U.S. wireless providers, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple announces a similar partnership to offset the high cost of this tablet, either.

It will be hard for Apple to thread the needle, so to speak, on a device which arguably fits into a very small niche in its existing line of offerings, but the company has been known to tap unexplored markets before, so we’ll have to wait and see if it can pull it off yet again.

Photo courtesy of flickr user factoryjoe.

35 Responses to “Rumor Has It: Apple Could Field $800 Tablet as Early as October”

  1. Goose Thunderfoot

    I will not be buying a tablet until WiMAX technology reaches our shores and puts an end to the deliberately slow G networks. I don’t want 2G, I don’t want 3G, I don’t even want 4G. I want wireless 10 Mb internet everywhere. We’ve had the technology for a decade and now that the U.S. has switched to digital television, the ideal frequencies are available. This will be the “big switch,” folks. The prophecy of every gadget becoming integrated will become a reality. Strong protocols and securities will be needed, but imagine walking through a city (or a foreign countryside) as if for the first time and experiencing a living internet[work]. I can’t wait.

  2. I think it would have to be more than a “big ipod touch”. it has to be a real computer with some power. otherwise, really no point dragging it along – at this point, being an oversized digital media player, it is rather big.

    I’d expect it to be two in one – one mode, with no keyboard for example, it’s a browse the web, watch the movie type of thing. Once you hook up a keyboard (wireless style of course), it turns to your netbook running Mac OS X. Do your blogging, email and such with ease. Keyboards are still the best way to type and Apple knows it.

    800 dollar price tag for a product like this seems quite right giving it opportunity to compete in the industry-aware segment of netbook buyers.

    • A DS style deal with two screens that turns into a two-page reader is a spectacular idea. An oversized iTouch is a stupid idea. But note how the rumor has the screen at 9.7 inches. That’s the exact same size as the Kindle DX. My speculation has been that Apple wants a Kindle killer and I expect that Job will want to do with books and texts of all sorts what he has done with music, which is boldly forge alignments that change the industry forever.

      Everything that Google has done, somewhat, and failed to do in convincing various publishers to go digital can be done with an Apple/Amazon alliance. Or Apple could do it alone. All you have to do is imagine is Jobs saying with major book publishers what he said with the major music industry players when the iTunes store was first announced. It can be that big.

      An iReader with multitouch is reasonably priced at 800 for gearhead first adopters like me, and can come down to Kindle prices next Christmas.

      I don’t know how anyone can not imagine Apple building a sexier device with multitouch and text to speech that blows the doors off of a Kindle DX. That’s all this product needs to do. The problem will be, of course, the liklihood that Apple will overload the iTunes Store. It needs to be a different kind of store, if you ask me, and it needs to be a touch more open so that booksellers can get on board.

      If anybody at Apple is as visionary as I am, then they will see a market for ‘book developers’ which is at least as large as the blogosphere, and they will find a way to monetize writing and lower barriers to self-publication in the same way they have generated a new class of software developers.

  3. What really excites me about this, and has done for a long time now… Is will it have a custom cloud based OS, somewhere in between the iphone and the fully blown snow leopard? I got the feeling the google chrome os announcement was PR’ed just to steal some of apples limelight should they release such a thing.

    Exciting times!

  4. Graham

    I was jotting down notes and sketches on a pad of paper the other day for work and would love to have a Mac Tablet style machine that goes beyond just finger style input. I still want to be able to do the majority of my navigation and input using finger based gestures but it would be really cool to have a pen with much finer grained input capabilities for when I want to write or sketch. I’m not even after handwriting recognition (although that would be a cool option) but just the ability to capture electronically my notes that I fill notebook after notebook with and end up loosing or misplacing and can’t index and search easily when I can find them. :-)

  5. Apple has a tendency to create new markets. I’m guessing that maybe they’re trying to design a tablet PC that really emulates what we can do with a paper notebook while simultaneously targetting the netbook and eBook market.

  6. Gazoobee

    @ David Koff:

    The MacDweeb get’s it all right until he starts to speculate. Out of his five “speculations” only the fact that it has bluetooth is right and that’s not much of a speculation at all is it? It will almost certainly be a tablet, not a netbook, and if it’s a tablet, making it in a laptop form factor is seriously the dumbest thing they could do.

    The whole idea of two screens that fold together is a pipe dream that makes no sense at all and is based on a fantasy product rendering making the rounds lately. It would consume double the power, be twice as heavy, and twice the cost, and for waht reason? So that instead of a physical keyboard, we can use a virtual keyboard in the same location? This also eliminates all the benefits of it being a tablet in the first place in that it becomes just another laptop/netbook that has to be put on a table and used with two hands.

    The whole two screens deal is asinine and pure fantasy. It’s a very bad design that looks cool to the average joe.

  7. A 3G connected iTablet would be great. It would have to make voice calls through a headset, though. I don’t think I’d like holding that thing to my head.

  8. Doubtful it’s a netbook. More likely their long-rumored “tablet Mac” – which is nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch. **Could** be a great seller, depending on features. That of course is if the rumor is even true to begin with! ;)

  9. I seriously doubt this will be something with 3G built in. Maybe a secure sd slot like the laptops have would make more sense. Wireless 3G cards can be made if not already out there. Eye-sight built in, 720p video, mini-display port, wireless N and bluetooth built in. USB port. Basically a super-stripped down MBA with patented multi-touch screen. 64GB solid state drive, optional 128GB and a single i/o audio port. Apple will leave keyboards to 3rd party peripheral makers who want to create a fold-up bluetooth keyboard for traditionalists.

  10. I doubt they’ll turn on old-style-keyboard support. Apple killed the keyboard. And Apple doesn’t want to see people getting in the habit of lugging around an old keyboard everywhere they go. People would point and laugh.

  11. I think this is a hot idea. Here is the niche that it fills for me:
    1. When I travel, I’d rather not take a laptop with me. I’d rather just take my phone. But my iPhone isn’t enough. I am not a good enough typist to make the small keyboard acceptable for significant e-mail, and websites are usable, but not enjoyable on the phone (for the most part)
    2. I have an MBA (Rev A) and a netbook. The netbook has been relegated to the kids because of its small screen size. The MBA is my primary machine and I like it very well. But often, I wish it were even smaller and faster to start.
    3. The tablet would capture the spot that I need. The right size for e-mail, presentation delivery, media and web consumption, but not so big that I really have to think about bringing it or not.

    I really am excited about this idea.