Apple will debut its "latest creation" in San Francisco on Jan. 27, according to an official invite sent to media and analysts, who widely expect the device in question to be a tablet PC.
In typical Apple fashion, the invitation itself is short on details and big on style, featuring an Apple logo against a background of messy multicolored paint splotches. "Come see our latest creation," the invite asks.
Despite no official confirmations by Apple, months of fevered rumor and speculation have focused on the idea that the company is developing a multitouch tablet PC. Fueling that scuttlebutt throughout 2009 have been analyst reports detailing the device's hypothetical features, including Oppenheimer & Co. financial analyst Yair Reiner's Dec. 8 prediction of a 10.1-inch touch screen and a deal with publishing houses to distribute content; Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has also issued a number of reports suggesting that the device's operating system could be based on the iPhone OS, with apps designed for a larger screen, or else a modified version of the Mac OS X.
In a December research note, Munster estimated a 50 percent chance that a tablet PC would make an appearance at the Jan. 27 Apple event.
That occasion will almost certainly be hosted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has also done his part to tamp down any rumors. After an Aug. 24 report in The Wall Street Journal suggested that Jobs was devoting a substantial chunk of his time working on the development of a tablet PC, the CEO himself emailed the newspaper that "most of your information is incorrect."
With Apple managing to keep its internal leakage at a minimum, the blogosphere has leapt on any other paltry scraps of information emanating from third parties. In October 2009, attention focused on New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, who in a closed-door talk alluded to an "impending Apple slate." The question remains whether Keller was referring to "Slate," proper noun, or "slate" as in "upcoming slate of products." Other reports at the time suggested that Apple had begun talks with publishing companies over porting their content onto a device.
Apple-centric blogs have suggested in the past few weeks that Apple may have possibly acquired the domain name islate.com. MacRumors drilled down into the domain name registrant history for that site and found that, in late 2007, Apple Inc. was indeed the Registrant of record for the site. TechCruch also suggested that the name "iSlate" had been registered three years ago as a trademark, possibly by an Apple dummy corporation. Whether these discoveries foretell Apple's still-vaporware device being named "iSlate" will remain conjecture, however, until Jan. 27.
Ahead of the event, various sites are also reporting that publishers could have locked down deals with Apple. A report that The New York Times is close to charging for access to its Website has been interpreted by some that the company has indeed signed a content partnership agreement with Apple, although no official statements from the newspaper seem to support this theory.
"We'll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach," a Times spokesperson told Reuters. "No details until then."
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal has reported that HarperCollins Publishers are also negotiating with Apple to make e-books available over a tablet, quoting unnamed sources close to the supposed negotiations. HaperCollins CEO Brian Murray has previously alluded to multimedia-enhanced e-books as a way for publishers to squeeze out higher margins in the e-reader business, which is currently focused on producing text-heavy e-volumes for grayscale devices such as Amazon.com's Kindle.
If such deals prove real, they will likely be announced at the Apple event along with the "latest creation."