The rumors surrounding Apple's tablet/netbook PC have worked up into a storm, far more than the drips and drops we've seen before. The various details suggest that it's really coming, it'll be great, and thus you will buy it.
"Cocktail" and albums
It was a piece in the Financial Times that really stirred things up this time around. The paper suggested Apple was deep in negotiation with a group of record labels on a project dubbed "Cocktail" that will be a "new revolution" in the music biz. The deal is apparently going to push album sales by adding in additional content—far more sophisticated than the now old-fashioned CD case insert, and closer perhaps to DVD extras.
The whole thing, according to the FT, is intimately linked with the upcoming Apple tablet—a portable graphics and multimedia-rich device that would be the perfect vehicle for introducing Cocktail to the world. And it's all due to kick off in September, giving Apple a huge amount of exposure in the run-up to the Holiday season.
Component manufacturers identified
Next up came a Taiwanese paper which claimed to have identified various manufacturers for the key components of an Apple tablet PC. Wintek is reportedly making the 10-inch(ish) touchscreen display; Dynapack is tipped to make the batteries and Foxconn is responsible for bolting everything together in one piece.
That kind of makes sense—those are certainly all key pieces of a tablet-like machine, and Apple does have a good relationship with Foxconn, courtesy of the iPhone. When the terrible news of the Foxconn worker's suicide hit, I even speculated that the missing prototype at the heart of the controversy could be the tablet, not an iPhone.
Flash memory from Toshiba
One key ingredient for the computer would be its storage—almost certainly going to be a solid-state solution, given the low power drain versus traditional hard drives, and a technology Apple's placed at the core of the iPhone and iPods other than the Classic.
Cue a rumor about Toshiba—According to DigiTimes, the company is ramping up its flash memory production, and will push its NAND flash factories up to 90% capacity in August. It's also apparently warning other customers that on-demand flash memory stock will be limited around the same time period, and that's being taken as a sign a big company—presumably Apple—has ordered millions of chips.
Of course the flash chips could be destined only for the iPod refresh—we know both the iPod touch and Nano are getting a bit of a revamp, and Apple's traditional iPod update schedule is due in September. But it's not beyond belief that the chips could also be going into the iTablet, since cranking production up to 90% capacity sounds like a heck of a big thing.
Movies, games and e-Books
The Financial Times followed its post about the Cocktail deal with another that shed more light on the tablet device itself. According to the paper, the entertainment industry hopes Apple can revolutionize the movie industry the same way it affected the digital music business with iTunes and the iPod. An iTablet would be "fabulous for watching movies."
There's also mention that "book publishers" have been in talks with Apple to try to make the iTablet an e-book, and one unnamed publishing exec even put words to exactly why it'd be a good thing—"It would be a colour, flat-panel TV to the old-fashioned, black and white TV of the Kindle." And, of course, that's true—and tallies with the fact that the iPhone is already seeing some success as an e-reader device, despite its limited screen size and the fact it uses an LCD rather than the funky e-ink of the Kindle.
The FT even suggests that big-business games companies are "also eager" for Apple to make the iTablet—the iPhone App Store has demonstrated there's a huge market out there for casual games, and a bigger-screened iTablet would be even more game-friendly.
Lastly, Apple bought PA Semi last year, and there's an intensifying debate that the company will use its own ARM-based chips inside the iTablet, rather than following an Intel Atom route.
So there you have it. The iTablet is coming, according to all of these rumors. It'll cost around $800—above Tim Cook's $500 netbook-dissing figure. It'll be based on the iPhone's port of OS X, and it'll be great for music, movies, games, e-books and, quite possibly, may take your dog for a walk and clean your house too. You'll want one.