McGraw-Hill confirms Apple tablet, iPhone-style OS

But a company spokesman later calls boss' comments 'speculation'

Just hours before Apple's expected announcement, the chief executive of a major U.S. book publisher confirmed that the company will unveil a tablet tomorrow and that the device will run a version of the iPhone OS.

But after top McGraw-Hill exec Terry McGraw spilled the secret on the cable news network CNBC, a company spokesman downplayed his boss' comments, saying that the publishing firm was "eager as anyone" to see the actual device.

On CNBC's Earnings Central (see video below), McGraw was asked about Apple and McGraw-Hill textbooks. "Yes, they'll make their announcement tomorrow on this one," said McGraw. "We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system."

Other sources have pointed to an iPhone-like OS for the tablet. Yesterday, experts at the mobile analytics company Flurry said their data showed as many as 50 tablets running iPhone OS 3.2 on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus.

McGraw also said that 95% of McGraw-Hill's textbooks are in e-book format, and so will be available on the new tablet. "We have a consortium of e-books...and we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you're going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific," he said.

Later in the day, CNBC posted several follow-up stories on its Web site that said Stephen Weiss, McGraw-Hill's head of corporate communications, would not confirm that McGraw was describing Apple's actual tablet. "There has been lots of speculation and we are as eager as anyone to see how the new device can be used to advance education and business information platforms," Weiss told the Associated Press.

Weiss did not reply to e-mail and voice messages from Computerworld late Tuesday.

Apple is famous for the secrecy that surrounds its product launches -- it's how the company builds intense consumer interest, experts said today -- but partners have leaked information before. In late 2007, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that Apple would deliver a faster iPhone in the following year, months before Apple officially announced, much less shipped, the iPhone 3G.

Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub will spill all the tablet's secrets tomorrow as he live-blogs Apple's event starting at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET.

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Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, send e-mail to gkeizer@ix.netcom.com or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed .

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