Rumours are at fever pitch that Apple are about to unleash the next 'super gadget' taking on the form of a 'tablet like' device.
Speculation on what it will look like, what it'll be called and where it fits into the market place are keeping forums and technical analysts pretty busy right now.
But why a tablet device?
Well a brief look at Apples history gives us some clue's as to why people think there may be a Tablet device on its way. To do this we need go back a couple of decades to the heady days of the Newton, a software platform started in 1989 and designed by Apple Computer Inc to run on PDA's or Personal Digital Assistants like the MessagePad 2000.
Set to 'revolutionise personal computing' the Newton project had to be shelved some 9 years later when Apple, led by CEO John Sculley, launched a plethora of boring gadgets which failed to capture the essence of what Apple was about. Its reputation in question, a fall in market share and a drop in the stock price ultimately took its toll and the rest as they say is history. Of course Microsoft didn't help but that's another story.
Return of the king
After Steve Jobs, one of Apples founding fathers, rejoined the company in 1997, ironically after being ousted by Sculley in 1985, the company started restructuring its product line up. Computers started to arrive that people actually wanted to buy, confidence returned and things started looking up. Fast forward ten years or so and Apple are now in a very different place.
Massive sales of the iPod and iPhone aligned to its traditional core business of desktop and laptop computers, have turned Apple into one of the most powerful tech companies in Silicon Valley, if not the world. Awash with billions in cash and totally debt free, market analysts now predict they'll soon overtake Microsoft, its Nemesis of the 80's.
But what of the Newton project? Whispers are that Steve Jobs has pulled it out of the garbage and is personally overseeing and reshaping the 'project' into a modern day miracle. Burning the midnight oil, constantly changing his mind, sending his boffins back the lab, removing those that displease him, waiting until the time is right to unleash his obsession on the world. Don't you just love the internet.
Personally i think we've already seen one version of the Newton project and the hardware which ran it. We refer to this as an iPhone and to a lesser degree the iPod Touch. Think about it for a moment. The hardware running the Newton platform were PDA's or personal digital assistants. That's just what the iPhone is. It assists us, through its multi-touch screen, by making phone calls, entertaining us with music and movies, accessing the internet and organising our busy lives by handling our email. And if we get lost it even helps us find our way thanks to GPS and applications from Tom Tom. If that's not a modern day PDA then my names Michael Caine.
The main differences in the hardware that ran the Newton platform and the iPhone is the physical size. With a 3.5 inch widescreen the iPhone does strain the eyes a little. The MessagePad 2100, for example, had a larger screen although with a lower resolution.
Which raises the key question. Are Apple about to release a new device with a larger screen?
Well the financial times reports that Apple have already booked the venue for the 26th of January and are going to launch something big.
Other rumours circulating the internet are that they've invested in 10.1 inch screens. At a similar time they've also acquired a number of companies. The first was a music streaming business called Lala and then a global mobile advertising company called Quattro Wireless.
Significant to a new Tablet? Not really.
Other than the screens, which is pure rumour, the other purchases simply tell me Apple plans to finally get into the music subscription business to compete with the likes of Napster and Spotify. The other purchase tells me Apple fancy taking a bite from mobile advertising. These of course could easily integrate into any device Apple currently offers including the fabled Tablet.
So there you have it. The reason for all the wild speculation. Incidentally, it's important to add that Apple haven't confirmed the venue booking as of yet, although one Apple writer Andy Ihnatko, who refers to the device as 'the RAT', has already booked his flights to San Francisco.
Maybe he knows something we don't and the Tablet is coming after all.