Rumour Has It: Tablet Announcement as Early as January

Source: Piper Jaffray

Whaddya mean, you’re skeptical about reports regarding an upcoming Tablet announcement? When did you last hear a major publisher report exciting Tablet news from unnamed sources? Oh, wait.

Earlier in the week the Wall Street Journal reported on the rumors of Apple’s (s aapl) forays into television content subscription. It also made a passing reference to the tablet coming “by the end of March.” And we’d have left it at that, except that yesterday the Financial Times also chimed in with a little more on the same theme:

Apple is preparing an announcement next month that many anticipate will be the official unveiling of its tablet, but the company has so far declined to confirm the existence of the device. Wall Street analysts expect mass production of an Apple tablet to begin as early as February.

Of course, when it comes to reporting about Apple’s fabled Tablet device, no one ever properly cites their sources. Instead, we get fleeting, nebulous references to shady characters and nameless insiders: “Sources close to Apple told us…” or “An executive familiar with the matter revealed…” Occasionally, some enterprising analyst stares at a spreadsheet for a while and makes up some bold predictions — and then they get named as sources, their prophecies presented almost as iron-clad statements of previously super-occluded fact.

Even worse, it’s not hard to imagine that sometimes ( just occasionally) those same analysts become the mysterious, unidentified sources of privileged insider information, referred to almost casually as “sources with intimate knowledge of Apple.” While that’s not technically incorrect, it’s still wildly misleading. And unethical, too.

Of course, I’m not suggesting venerable publishers such as the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times get up to these shenanigans. However, it’s at least interesting to note that earlier this month, and reported by AppleInsider, Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner offered much the same predictions for a first-quarter 2010 Tablet launch;

Reiner…revealed his latest tablet news in a note to investors issued Wednesday morning.

“Our checks into Apple’s supply chain indicate the manufacturing cogs for the tablet are creaking into action and should begin to hit a mass market stride in February,” the note said.

Reiner said Apple would likely need at least five or six weeks of inventory built up before it can release the product, positioning a likely launch in March or April.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read that an analyst has revealed his “latest” news about Apple’s super-duper-secret-history-making-miracle-tablet, I gotta assume that doesn’t mean his latest morsels of juicy, hitherto-unknown insider information, but rather, his “latest roundup of most reasonable rumors and assumptions gathered from around the Internet.” I guess it depends on your level of cynicism, how badly you want the Tablet, and how you choose to read between the lines.

Either way, the WSJ and the FT are in competition with one another. One mustn’t be outdone by the other — even if that means reporting “old” news that isn’t really news at all. It’s conjecture from a man who doesn’t claim to have inside knowledge, but just looked into Apple’s “supply chain” and offered some best guesses. That is, after all, what analysts do. You can do the same thing, by the way, just by gathering together a half dozen industry trade-press magazines.

Mind you, that line which begins “Apple is preparing an announcement next month…” is pretty specific, isn’t it? Specific without actually telling us anything, but then, that’s what the rumor mill is all about these days, right?

Frankly, I’m growing tired of all these rumors — Apple can’t release this thing soon enough, as far as I’m concerned, if only so we can finally put all this frothy prognostication behind us!

UPDATE: Boy Genius Report is now reporting that its own inside source is reporting a 7-inch Apple tablet launch in January is a 100 percent certainty. Looks like we may not have to wait much longer to put the rumors to rest.