Speculation that Apple may launch touchscreen 'iSlate'

26/01/10

Steve Jobs

Technology fans are in a frenzy. On Wednesday evening Apple will unveil its latest product or products.

The smart money is on a touch screen, tablet-style computer. If they get it right, it could change the PC market in the same way the iPhone shook up the mobile world.

Of course, there's a big "maybe" hanging over all this, because Apple events are, notoriously, shrouded in secrecy.

That's why they generate so much excitement. When there are no hard facts, everyone jumps in with rumour, lies and speculation.

The internet is riddled with iSlate/iTablet/iMakeupyourownname gossip. From homemade Photoshopped mock-ups of what it might look like, to supposed 'insider' information.

Rumours of Chinese companies that make touch screens running out of supplies have been flying around for months.

Websites such as Macrumors.com carry headlines asking: "Apple Tablet to include Front Facing Camera?"... "Dual Dock Connectors?"

While Apple is careful not to be seen as fuelling the pre-launch speculation, it doesn't discourage it either. After all, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

'Top secret'

The hype machine finally goes official when Apple sends out one of its legendary event invitations.

These mysterious emails pop into the inboxes of technology journalists around the world – a 21st Century equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden tickets.

The latest one features the company's logo splattered with multi-colour paint splodges.

Come and see our latest creation
Apple invite to Wednesday's event

It reads, simply: "Come and see our latest creation."

We won't know any more until the launch itself. Even within Apple the information is on a need-to-know basis.

One insider said recently that they knew something was coming up because the amount of 'chatter' within the company had increased substantially.

It's the same language governments use to warn of an impending terrorist attack.

Apple's skill at creating hype around its launches is so legendary in the public relations world that a whole mythology has built up around it.

They call it the 'Reality Distortion Field (RDF)' - a vortex that whips the public, Apple fans and journalists into a state of excitement where they are unable to judge if a product is good or bad.

They simply fall to the ground, as if having a religious experience.

When iPhone was unveiled, the media christened it the 'Jesus phone', based on the devotion of its followers and apparent God-like status.

Doubts

But not everyone is seduced by Apple's PR mystery machine. Many UK technology journalists are sounding a note of caution about the iSlate.

The really interesting bit is not actually the hardware, but the software and services the tablet will use
Dan Grabham, TechRadar

They point to the fact that Wednesday's launch will only take place in San Francisco. In the past, such events have been relayed by satellite to London.

"It looks like this isn't happening this time," said Christopher Phin from MacFormat magazine.

"That may suggest that, should the tablet prove to be a strongly content-based device (things like books and magazines) then it's being launched initially solely in the US because that's the territory for which the content deals have been done."

TechRadar's Dan Grabham warns against getting hung up on the gadget itself: "The really interesting bit is not actually the hardware, but the software and services the tablet will use.

"The slate could really sew up the eBook market and provide a whole new mass-market way of consuming printed content."

Whatever the exact details, it's likely the iSlate will quickly become this year's most iconic piece of technology.