Tablet computing: The next iHit?

The blogs are abuzz about Apple's new tablet device. What's true — and what's not.

For months, top gadget blogs from Gizmodo to iLounge have breathlessly spread gossip about Apple’s rumored new tablet device, dubbed the “iPad” by some. What will it look like? When will it be unveiled? Will it be a glorified Kindle? No one but God and that lesser deity, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, knows for certain. So we asked the experts to help us separate the rumour from the truth.

Truth or rumour: It will look and operate like an oversized iPod Touch.

Truth, without a doubt. Also, it will work closely with iTunes and the App Store. The gamble? No real keyboard. “It seems a bit shocking,” says Jules Goss, who specializes in the industrial design of consumer electronics at the Ontario College of Art & Design, “but many people seem comfortable with a virtual keypad, if it’s designed right.”

It will be roughly the size of a steno notebook.

That’s the latest from a “reliable source” on iLounge, who reports it will be 10.7 inches across, diagonally. Kaan Yigit, president of Toronto-based Solutions Research Group, says the timing is perfect for a device of just that size. “The key is that it’s not too thick, that it’s very light,” says Yigit, “and that it runs cool and doesn’t blister your hands if you hold it for 10 minutes.”

It will be ready for a 3G mobile wireless network.

A toss-up. Wi-Fi connectivity is a must, but forcing consumers to subscribe to a wireless-carrier contract could be unpalatable. So Yigit expects there to be two versions, one with wireless and one without, similar to the iPhone versus iPod Touch buying decision that exists now.

It will cost between US$700 and US$900.

Truth, if Apple’s smart. Yigit says US$699 is a sweet spot& #8212; double the price of existing netbooks but not too close to more full-featured laptops.

It will have a webcam.

Rumor, says Yigit. “It’s going to be difficult. It just takes them to a different place. They’re not thinking about it for Skype video chat, no.”

It will go head-to-head with Amazon’s Kindle.

Don’t get your hopes up. Yigit doesn’t buy that Apple is hell-bent on preventing the Kindle from being the one to digitize the publishing industry. “Apple’s vision is around video, primarily. If this device doesn’t do video flawlessly, it’s not worth putting out into the market,” he says.