Apple Inc. on Monday invited journalists to a Jan. 27 press event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco -- a move sure to fuel growing speculation about the prospect of an Apple tablet.
The invitation to the event, which begins at 10 a.m. Pacific time, offers no clues as to just what Apple plans to announce -- except to urge invitees to "come see our latest creation." Computerworld was among the news organizations to receive an invitation.
Wall Street analysts last month predicted that Apple might unveil a 10.1-inch tablet as early as March. More recently, industry observers have settled on the theory that Apple officials will unveil a tablet-like device on Jan. 27, but that the product itself won't ship until March.
Just before Christmas, Gene Munster, who tracks Apple for Piper Jaffray & Co., offered 50-50 odds that Apple would introduce its first tablet device in January.
In a research note cited by several online sources, Munster said: "We expect the tablet hardware to be similar to an iPod Touch but larger (about 10"); we expect the key differentiator of the device to be its software. While there are several options ranging from a touch screen Mac OS X to an iPhone-like OS, we expect the tablet to be driven by a new version of Apple's iPhone OS that runs a new category of larger apps alongside all the current apps from the App Store."
Speculation that Apple has been working on a tablet has reached something of a fever pitch this month, a far cry from the prevailing view in late 2008, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company had no interest in the growing category of netbooks, which were then gaining popularity.
Still, Jobs left the door open to a change in strategy if Apple ever decided to join the mini-laptop/netbook/tablet game. "We'll wait and see how that nascent category evolves," he said in October 2008. "And we've got some pretty interesting ideas if it does evolve."