The Apple channel might be on the verge of its biggest computer development product launch since the iMac.

Keep taking the tablets

Yes, I’m talking about the Apple tablet, which we’ve all been waiting to see for almost three years. Except this time it looks like it’s actually coming.

We all held our breaths when Steve Jobs took the stage in San Francisco this year on September 7th to launch the new iPods. We thought it had to be for something more than a new version of iTunes, right? But we got an iPod that records video, a new Touch, and coloured Shuffles – not really what we were expecting.

So what’s known so far? Well, it’s certain that Apple has ordered millions of OLED displays from Sharp that measure 10.7 inches diagonally. What isn’t confirmed is whether these are touchscreen. Balda – the German company that produced the iPhone’s touchscreen technology –is keeping very quiet.

Apple has invested heavily in the latest ARM Core9x processors – set to be the new engine for high-performance sub- notebooks, but Intel also has a new generation of sub-notebook processors ready to ship. Certainly ARM’s latest processor should be powerful enough to run OS X, as indeed will the Intels.

Last April, a senior executive from Foxconn – the giant Chinese technology company that assembles many of Apple’s computers, including the iPhone – unexpectedly revealed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that it had been retained by Apple to manufacture a major new notebook product, but this statement was later retracted.

Many rumours suggest that the device will be an oversized iPhone or a touchscreen sub-notebook running full Mac OS X. And there are some great photos out there – just type Apple Tablet into Google to see the variants.

What will it be called? Speculation says iPad could be the final name, although MacPad and MacBook Touch have been mentioned. Apple renewed its copyright on the name iBook earlier this year, which makes perfect sense if the device is going to have eBook capabilities against Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader.

The question is when? In June, the Wall Street Journal said we’d see the device in time for Christmas, but since the keynote last month, this launch date appears to have slipped to next year. Apparently Apple has pencilled in an event for the Moscone Center on January 19th 2010, but is yet to be confirmed. Apple has traditionally launched significant products in January – both the MacBook Air and AppleTV were launched in January 2008.

When it appears, Apple will no doubt ensure this device revolutionises the sub–notebook/ tablet markets in the same way as the iPhone dominates smartphones.

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