Apple has set in motion the manufacturing of a tablet computer, with a launch target of next March or April, according to Yair Reiner, an analyst with investment banker Oppenheimer.
Reiner made detailed claims for the much-anticipated device in a note distributed to clients on Wednesday. (Oppenheimer hasn't responded yet to a request for a copy of the report, but excerpts from it are being cited in online stories and blogs.)
"The manufacturing cogs for the tablet are creaking into action," Reiner wrote, according to a Fortune post by Philip Elmer-DeWitt.
Reiner bases his predictions on information from a variety of sources in the consumer electronics supply chain. Though some, like PC World's Ian Paul in this recent screed, don't even believe the tablet exists except as a fanboy fantasy.
Network World's iOnApple blogger Yoni Heisler freely admits he doesn't know if the Apple tablet exists, but says the rumors he's heard are intriguing and that the large-format touch device might prove as revolutionary as the iPhone.
Others wonder if consumers will actually want a tablet, given the ever-lower cost of high-powered notebooks, the rise of compact netbooks, and the growing sophistication of smartphones, the iPhone chief among them. Microsoft has made two-ill-fated attempts to mainstream the tablet form factor, which has found a niche only in some narrow vertical markets.
Reiner's assertions are unusually specific compared with much of the other feverish tablet speculation.
According to several accounts based on his research note, Reiner forecasts that Apple wants to build up to 1 million tablet computers monthly.
He also says Apple has finally opted for a 10.1-inch multi-touch screen, based on the iPhone's LCD technology (there had been speculation it would opt for OLED, a more pricey display).
Reiner is forecasting an average sales price of $1,000 for the Tablet. The 13.3-inch MacBook notebook is priced at $999. He makes a conservative assumption that Apple could move 1 million to 1.5 million units per quarter and wring out an average net income margin of 22%.
Perhaps more intriguingly, though again Reiner isn't the first to suggest this, he claims that Apple has been in talks with an array of book publishers, enticing them to distribute their content for the tablet, rather than Amazon's Kindle ebook reader. Reiner says the publishers are open to the idea because of dissatisfaction with the contract terms exacted by Amazon for content suppliers on the Kindle.
In November, it was revealed that Apple had filed a patent application for a pen-based mobile device, re-igniting the persistent tablet rumors.
This story, "Apple Tablet Gearing Up for March 2010 Release" was originally published by Network World.