Apple Tablet All But Confirmed--Could Retail Around $700

Where there's smoke, there's fire--right? Um, right--at least, we sure hope so! Just a week after we heard some pretty convincing rumors that Apple really was gearing up to give the whole Tablet PC thing a shot, along comes an even more believable report suggesting that a Barron's analyst has not only confirmed that Apple will be producing a tablet, but that he has actually played with it.

Now, we'll be the first to admit that this whole thing sounds somewhat fishy. After all, when's the last time Apple let an outsider play with a brand new device before it was ready for introduction? Maybe an Apple engineer, sure--but an analyst? That said, Barron's has a solid track record of reporting just the facts, so we're cautiously hopeful that there's actually some meat to this one.

As we'd heard, the supposed tablet should be ready for release in the September time frame, with shipments starting to head out in November. In other words, this is perfect for a booming holiday quarter. The analyst was quoted as saying the following:

"It's close enough now to a final design that in Asia, there's no other product in the waiting room or in the bullpen. There are dozens of ODMs [original device makers] making products for Lenovo and other PC makers that are all waiting to see what the Apple product is."

What's crazy about that is the final bit. It seems that ODMs are all waiting in tense anticipation for the Apple device, possibly hopeful to get its business to make 'em. That's the power of America's hottest tech company, we guess. We're told that the device should retail for between $699 and $799, and that it could " fulfill a variety of multimedia functions currently taken up by a gaggle of individual consumer electronics devices." It could be put to use as a "ome media center, somewhat like the current Apple TV, and it could be a gaming machine." That's the opinion of one Jon Peddie, head of Jon Peddie Research in California.

We're told that gaming could be a big part of what this thing is all about, which will certainly be new for a tablet. When's the last time you heard someone say they were buying a tablet primarily for its gaming prowess? Never? Of course, the main question still on everyone's mind is this: will the App Store be a focal point? Judging by how successful that has been on the iPhone and iPod touch, we'd have to wager "yes."