Apple is planning to launch a Tablet PC-style wireless display terminal, the Chinese language Economic Daily News has reported.
Taiwanese contract notebook manufacturer Quanta has been signed to produce the machine, the paper claimed citing unnamed sources.
The story will stoke ongoing rumours that the Mac maker is working on a tablet Mac. Hints that such a device was being worked on Apple's labs have been surfacing since last Autumn.
Our old pal Matthew Rothenberg at eWeek let the cat out of the bag last November with his "hunch" that Apple has already seeding prototype tablet Macs with developers. At its core: Mac OS X's Inkwell handwriting recognition technology and a healthy amount of knowledge picked up during the development of the Newton OS, said Matt. Inkwell has been a part of Apple's system software since last September's release of Mac OS X 10.2. So far, only graphics tablet users have been able to do anything with it.
Matt later refined his 'hunch' to encompass a "device that superficially resembles a large iPod with an 8in diagonal screen, lacks a keyboard, packs USB and FireWire ports, and runs Mac OS X along with a variety of multimedia goodies". The launch window: Macworld Expo San Francisco, last January.
If the tablet is real, we suspect Apple pulled the launch to prevent it being overshadowed by the 17in PowerBook.
Since then the 8in LCD tablet concept has run and run, with talk of a home-oriented machine with built in Airport Extreme 802.11g networking.
The Economic Daily News story, however, talks of a 15in display with a detachable keyboard but no battery. That suggests we're not going to be looking at a tablet as such, but some kind of tabletop terminal, perhaps driven by Mac OS X Server.
If the story is accurate, we reckon Apple is targeting not the business-oriented Tablet PC market but the living room PC consumer arena.
The Economic Daily News says Quanta has begun test production, and is expecting to ship in volume during Q1 2004, which seems a little far off, particularly given last year's suggestion that developers already had prototypes.
Might Apple be preparing two separate devices, a tablet and a wireless living room terminal? At this stage, it's impossible to say, though Apple insiders are welcome to enlighten us. ®