Apple Tablet Rumors Fueled by New York Times Editor's Speech

Rumors of an upcoming Apple tablet PC, fueled periodically by alleged patent and insider leaks, receive another boost when video shows New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller referred to "the impending Apple slate" in a speech at TheTimesCenter. Whether or not Keller was referring to a specific device, Apple has been exploring touch-screen functionality, leading Microsoft to tout the multitouch capabilities of its newly released Windows 7.

Rumors of an Apple tablet PC were refueled over the weekend, with leaked video of the executive editor at The New York Times referring to "the impending Apple slate" at an Oct. 16 meeting.

While Apple has long refused to confirm or deny the scuttlebutt about a tablet PC in the works, periodic leaks of everything from alleged patents to insider reports have never failed to ignite a media firestorm. Fueling the fire have been analyst reports suggesting that such a device will be released in the first half of 2010.

"We need to figure out the right journalistic product to deliver to mobile platforms and devices," Bill Keller, the executive editor at The New York Times, told the newspaper's staff during a mid-October meeting at TheTimesCenter in New York. "I'm hoping we can get the newsroom more actively involved in the challenge of delivering our best journalism in the form of Times Reader, iPhone apps, WAP or the impending Apple slate, or whatever comes after that."

A transcript of Keller's remarks found its way onto the Website of the Nieman Journalism Lab, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, and the video began its spread across the Web over the weekend of Oct. 25.

The gathering was originally intended to be off the record.

Whether or not Keller was referring to an actual Apple tablet PC-as opposed to, say, Apple's upcoming "slate" of products-recently uncovered patent applications filed by Apple suggest that the company is exploring touch-screen technology.

In a patent application filed in June, Apple described a device with a touch screen that can be manipulated with the fingers of both hands as well as the palms, theoretically allowing a broad range of activities including drawing or typing. The electronics involved in the patent would minimize feedback from a stray hand or finger accidentally resting on the device, and would accommodate hands of different sizes.

"The primary object of the present invention," the patent read, is to "provide a system and method for integrating different types of manual input such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation and handwriting on a multitouch surface."

The patent application, originally reported by Apple Insider and other blogs, can be found here.

An Aug. 24 report in The Wall Street Journal suggested that CEO Steve Jobs, returned from medical leave, was devoting a good deal of attention to the gadget. Jobs allegedly killed two previous versions of the device over concerns about battery life and internal memory capacity. In response to that article, Jobs e-mailed the Journal to state, "Most of your information is incorrect."

The existence of an Apple tablet PC, along with e-readers such as's Kindle line and Barnes & Noble's just-announced Nook, could help repair the fortunes of newspapers and other periodicals looking for new ways to attract readers and revenue. has previously negotiated deals with content providers to port their periodicals onto the Kindle, and Barnes & Noble is doing the same. With the decline of traditional print advertising and readership, newspapers have been bleeding funds and staff members, leaving them desperate to find a new paradigm to embrace.

Click here for scenes from the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader's debut in New York.

Keller in his speech also acknowledged that the newspaper's staff feels "a little paralyzed by the unresolved question of pay versus free" when it comes to the development of online content.

While companies such as would be pressured by Apple striking deals with newspapers and other media outlets to port content onto devices through the iTunes store, an Apple tablet PC would also present a challenge to Microsoft. In events surrounding the Oct. 22 release of Windows 7, Microsoft has been taking particular care to promote the multitouch capabilities of its new operating system, in addition to the new touch-screen devices being produced by its manufacturing partners.