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FAQ: What we don't know about the Apple tablet

Everyone expects Apple to unveil the next great thing Wednesday; here's what we know, or don't, about the device.

January 25, 2010 06:47 AM ET

Computerworld - What do we know about technology's worst-kept secret? Not a heck of a lot.

In fact, for something that everyone seems to know about -- that Apple Inc. will unveil a tablet this week -- there's no hard fact that points to the company doing just that. Apple has said jack squat about a tablet, yea or nay, unless you count the leaks to the Wall Street Journal that many have assumed originated with Apple itself.

Without facts, what we have is rumors and rumors of rumors.

That admission makes this more of an anti-FAQ than an FAQ, so bear with us. Just remember that until Wednesday, when Apple kicks off the invitation-only press event that everyone assumes will focus on a tablet, no one outside the company, or at best, a very small circle of reviewers, knows anything.

Will Apple unveil a tablet on Wednesday? If it doesn't, the non-announcement will be one of the biggest gotchas in modern consumer electronics history, a vaporware debacle fueled by Apple enthusiasts and Wall Street analysts -- but not suppressed by the company.

Apple keeps secrets better than the former Soviet KGB, so nothing is certain until the words spill out of their executives' mouths. But virtually every analyst and pundit has bought into the idea of an Apple tablet. The invitations that the company issued last week said, "Come see our latest creation," seemingly confirming that Apple will pull back the sheet and reveal a tablet Jan. 27.

If it doesn't deliver, the backlash will be as newsworthy as the tablet's debut would have been.

How big a screen? A 10-in. diagonal display -- or maybe a 7-in. model.

That's one of the biggest ongoing arguments about the tablet: Will Apple go for a one-two punch, offering a smaller tablet with a 7-in. screen at the outset and then shipping a larger device later? Aaron Vronko, who has torn apart all kinds of consumer electronics -- and whose company RapidRepair services iPhones and iPods -- says that a 10-in. tablet is inevitable but speculates that Apple may open with a 7-in. model.

Vronko based his bet on the power demands of LCD screens and the lack of production volume for power-sipping OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays in the 10-in. size.

Others have claimed that Apple will sell more than one model. Last November, reports circulated from Asian component makers -- the source of many of the last year's rumors -- who said that Apple would deal out a pair of devices, including a smaller model that relies on an OLED display.

How much will one cost? We don't know.

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