Exploring the Apple Tablet Rumor...Again

The Apple Tablet—long hoped-for magic unicorn of the high-tech gadget world—is back in the news. But this time instead of merely speculating, people are saying they have hard numbers to back up their rumors. So—is it real?

Apple Tablet Mock-upThe latest round of rumors started yesterday, with the China Times saying it had learned specifics about the machine: instead of a fantasy date like "by the end of 2010" the Times instead said the computer would arrive in October, and would come with a price tag in the $800 range. That's very precise information. But the newspaper went further, and claimed to have knowledge that Foxconn, Wintek and Dynapack have received direct orders from Apple for components for the touchscreen tablet device.

As rumors go, this one is pretty good—it's consistent with some information we've learned in the past, it's logical, and the price tag tallies nicely with Apple management's own words about not planning to enter the "sub $500" netbook market. None of this lends any particular credibility to the rumor, though, it just means it's not a shockingly bad one.

But then Venturebeat claimed to have some insider knowledge about the hardware that'll power the device. They're noting that when Apple bought PA Semi last year, it landed itself with some pretty hot-to-trot chip designers, originally behind the StrongArm and DEC Alpha processors. According to Venturebeat's sources that team was subsequently divided to tackle two separate tasks: To make portable ARM CPUs for the iPhone and iPods, and to make a CPU for the Apple Tablet. This extra information adds an unavoidable attractiveness to the latest tablet rumors. The one remaining question is: How long does it take to design and build a chip—is a year enough to go from prototype through testing to mass production? And nowadays, the answer is just about yes, it is.

So aggregating all that together we have the following:

  • A company assigned to make touchscreens (Wintek);
  • Two companies to make and assemble the rest of the technology;
  • An in-house chip design team that's been working in secret for a year;
  • Apple with masses of portable device expertise thanks to the iPods and iPhones;
  • And a new lightweight OS due for launch in October.

Oh, and remember that Apple's just renamed basically its whole laptop lineup as MacBook Pros—that must be a move to make space in the inventory for a redesigned MacBook. You can see why the rumor is interesting. In fact, it's about as interesting a rumor as we've yet had on the topic. Slip on your unicorn-detecting night-vision goggles and watch this space.

[via Venturebeat]

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