NEWS ANALYSIS -- Apple's tablet PC may win an award for most-commented-upon vaporware of 2009. Rumors of the device, which a handful of analysts feel will make its debut sometime in 2010, have been fueled over the past week by comments from New York Times' Executive Editor Bill Keller. Although Apple remains tight-lipped on the tablet's existence, the company could be finding it more difficult to keep secrets than even a few years ago.
The game of "Guess the Features of the Apple Tablet PC" has kept
analysts and media rampantly speculating over the past few months, despite
Apple's refusal to either confirm or deny the development of a touch-screen device.
The rumor mill's refusal to stop churning likely indicates two things: first,
that Apple's products, no matter how vaporware, continue to have a stranglehold
on the popular imagination; and second, that Apple may not be quite as good at
keeping secrets as in past years.
Despite the lack of serious news, or at least a firm confirmation or denial
from Apple, the company continues to create buzz around a product that many are
expecting even with a general lack of firsthand knowledge. That said, Apple's
reliance on more partners this time around, unlike the build-up to the iPhone,
has provided industry watchers and analysts with more ideas about an Apple
Tablet's form factor and capabilities.
"As Apple has moved into new product areas, it's had to widen its
supply chain," Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies
Associates, said in an interview with eWEEK. "By doing that, they have
more people sworn to secrecy, but leakage is almost inevitable. Apple has lost
some control over that process."
Kay believes that a tablet PC from Apple will make its debut relatively
A few years ago, Kay added, "Apple kept secrets well enough so that [Apple
CEO] Steve Jobs could plausibly deny
something. But now you have leaks in places like Taiwan,
where you have a lot of loose lips. The iPhone was sort of known before it came
out, in a very limited kind of way, but this tablet PC has been more thoroughly
Apple's partners have also leaked information.
With recent scuttlebutt focused on Apple's supposed discussions with media
companies over porting the latter's content onto a tablet PC, a
recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald
featured executives from
Australian news outlets suggesting they had been in talks with Apple officials
over such a deal.
"It is understood that Apple has been in direct talks with Australian
media companies to launch a new app for the tablet that would allow them to
distribute their content in digital form and charge for it," that article
mentioned. "Apple's model has been to give developers 70 percent of the
revenue and to keep a 30 percent cut. It is expected a similar deal will be
offered to media companies."
Last week, news outlets reported on how Bill Keller, an executive editor at
The New York Times, referred to "the impending Apple slate" in a speech at
TheTimesCenter in New York. No
matter that Keller's marks were originally intended as off the record; once the
news started to leak-a
transcript of his remarks found its way onto the Website of the Nieman
-it spread faster than a brush fire up a dry Los Angeles
Keller subsequently declined to elaborate on whether he meant "Apple
slate" as in a tablet-PC-like product or "Apple slate" as in
Apple's generalized lineup of devices.