What We Know About The Apple Tablet So Far

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More evidence of the Apple Tablet surfaced today. We first wrote about the device at the end of last year when OEMs in China started hearing about the device. Details are still thin, although probably not because of a lack of leaks. Rather, Apple may still be locking down important specs like screen size.

We’d heard 7 – 9 inch screen size late last year, but today’s reports range up to 10 inches, which we’ve also heard from our sources as a possible size.

We don’t know what the final price point will be, but somewhere between $500 and $1,000 makes sense. We’ve also heard that the launch date was pushed from this Fall to early next year, and we’ve confirmed that significant human assets from the iPod and iPhone team have been dedicated to the project.

In other words, the project is very real.

The operating system is likely to be based on the iPhone OS, which is a derivative of the standard Mac OS X. Some app developers have seen underlying code that suggests a larger screen device is on the way.

That means the App Store is a big part of the Apple Tablet, and the device will be particularly useful for gaming.

What we don’t know – the final screen size or the core CPU, although 10 inches is likely as we said, and it wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to launch with the Samsung ARM11 chip in the iPhone or their own proprietary chip from P.A. Semi, a company they acquired in 2008.

It’s not inconceivable that Apple would build around an Intel dual core that is common in most laptops, although the power usage of those chips would mean adding so much battery weight that the tradeoff may be unacceptable.

But if you look at the Macbook Air, which is a dual core machine that’s just an inch thick, you can imaging a dual core Apple Tablet. The only problem there would be cost – that is a $2,000 machine.

Most of the discussion today around CPUs is power usage, not core computing horsepower. ARM and Atom chips compete in low end devices like mobile phones and netbooks. Neither are great for Internet browsing – Flash, particularly video, still doesn’t work properly on ARM. Intel’s Atom isn’t much better because it can’t handle full screen or HD Flash video without skipping. Atom chips are also 2-3x the cost of ARM 11 chips and use significantly more power. Apple actually underclocks their ARM11 chip to get more battery life out of the iPhone, which hurts performance.

This Will Be A Huge Hit

Our posts about the CrunchPad show how seriously consumers want a device like this. It is the perfect couch computing device and will create a whole new category of computers. Everyone so far has blundered along with tiny screens. Apple is going to get it right. The price point and production capacity in China will be the only limiting factors in the number of units they can sell, in my opinion.

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