Upon Return to Apple, Jobs Focuses on Tablet Device

The Wall Street Journal reports that the return of CEO Steve Jobs, and his dedication to producing a tablet computer, is ruffling some feathers at Apple.

While reports of an impending announcement of a tabletlike device from Apple continue to consume the Internet, new information suggests since CEO Steve Jobs' return to active duty at the company, his focus has been on the production and launch of such a device.

The Wall Street Journal quoted sources "familiar with the situation" as saying Jobs has been concentrating on a portable, touch-screen device since his return, causing a certain measure of frustration among other Apple employees.

"People have had to readjust" to Jobs' return, an unnamed employee told the paper, although an e-mail Jobs sent to the WSJ said much of the paper's information was incorrect, albeit without going into further detail. Jobs took a six-month medical leave of absence from the company in January of this year, approximately five years after he revealed he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

For months, rumors concerning the release of a tablet device from the company known for its astutely designed, if expensive, computers and consumer devices such as the popular iPhone and iPod digital music player, have piqued the interest of analysts, investors and consumers. Despite the growing popularity of smaller, less expensive netbooks, Apple COO Tim Cook and Jobs have repeatedly stated they have no interest in producing a computer in the $500 range, which is the price point where most netbook manufacturers find themselves around. The tablet device is widely considered to be Apple's alternative answer to those devices and an attempt to change consumers' conceptions about tablet computers, which have struggled to find an audience.

Earlier this month, Barron's reported that an unnamed analyst got a look at the tablet the company has in the works, which features a 10-inch screen and integrated 3G, according to the financial publication. The tablet is expected to be priced between $699 and $799 and, as a media- and game-focused device, be capable of playing high-definition movies. Some pundits predict the tablet will make its debut during Apple's press event on Sept. 9, though other analysts and research firms suggest a release date closer to January 2010.

Adding to the frenzy of the tablet rumors was a research note released earlier this month by Piper Jaffray, which said the Apple tablet PC will be cheaper than a MacBook but still more expensive than the netbooks that are currently dominating sales on the lower end of the PC market. Despite that higher price point, Piper Jaffray sees an Apple tablet PC as a challenger in the netbook market, as well as competing against mobile devices from companies such as Amazon.com.

The issue of price is still expected to play a role in the release of such a device, at least to the lucrative college student market, according to a recent survey by product review search service Retrevo. While the tablet is expected to be priced within the general netbook market, albeit the higher end, its notebooks, which start at $949, may start to see sales declines.

Retrevo said it polled more than 300 of its 4 million monthly visitors and found that the "majority of student laptop shoppers will not consider buying a Mac," with price being a considerable factor.