If any device was destined to fail to meet expectations, it's Apple oft-rumored tablet device. Tablet rumors have been piling up for years, but the gossip mill has gone into overdrive since Apple scheduled a special press event for Wednesday, January 27 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. With so many rumors coming out every day, it's hard to know what to believe and what to write off as simply ridiculous. The truth is no one knows for sure what Apple will launch next Wednesday, or what the new device will be able to do. But the most frequent assumption is that Apple will unveil a new mobile device with a 10-inch touchscreen.
If that's the case, here's a list of five rumors that are most likely to prove false.
Rumor: Apple is currently hoarding the worldwide supply of 10.1-inch OLED screens for the Apple tablet.
An Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) display on the tablet is a popular rumor, because OLED screens feature bright and sharp picture quality and low power consumption. Google's recently launched Nexus One smartphone features an OLED screen, and while many critics say the Nexus One's display is stunning they admit the screen is difficult to see in sunlight. OLED screens are also expensive, which by itself wouldn't disqualify this display type from the tablet since Apple is not known for its bargain basement prices.
The biggest sticking point for an OLED screen on the tablet, however, is that an Apple-table-sized screen, commonly believed to be 10.1 inches, may not exist. Barry Young, Managing Director of the OLED Association recently told Ars Technica that 10.1-inch OLED screens are not a normal production size among suppliers, so if Apple wants this screen size it would have to place a special order. But Young has not heard of any OLED producers committing to large orders of 10.1-inch OLED screens. Does Apple have a secret producer of OLED displays? Doesn't sound like it.
Rumor: Apple's tablet will have a 3D display.
A few years ago, 3D was a dead technology the world had left behind in the 1980s with its gimmicky camera tricks, lame television specials, and cheap cardboard glasses. But that was before James Cameron's Avatar convinced millions of moviegoers that 3D really could be the future. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, many HDTV producers were showing off the first generation of 3D HDTVs headed to store shelves this year.
But most of these televisions require you to wear pricey 3D eyeglasses. Some displays allow you to see 3D images without special eyewear, but the technology doesn't seem good enough to justify inclusion in Apple's latest device.
Rumor: The tablet will use stylus-free handwriting recognition.
One of the biggest problems tech watchers have with the rumored tablet is figuring out how the device will receive text input. The tablet's larger screen size would make it difficult to use just your thumbs to type on an iPhone-style QWERTY keyboard. But if you are a touch-typist who rests your fingers on the keys, you'd end up triggering a lot of unintended text entry since virtual keyboards are so sensitive to touch.
One possible solution to the tablet's keyboard conundrum could be found in a 2008 Apple patent uncovered by Macrumors. The patent discusses a technology that uses a "pen detection module" to track your hand movements as if you were writing on the screen without an actual pen. That sounds like a great idea, and would complement Steve Jobs' disdain for the stylus, but it also sounds awfully far fetched. However, considering that other speculation about text entry suggests a multitouch keyboard with tactile feedback as the solution, I'd call stylus-free handwriting recognition the most likely of the least likely tablet rumors.
One Family, One Tablet
Rumor: The tablet is a multiuser device.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday posted a report on the latest rumors about the tablet. Apparently Apple has been experimenting with tools that would make the tablet a share-friendly device such as the capability to leave virtual Post-It Notes for other users (OSX already has a sticky note app called Stickies) and a built-in camera that could recognize individual users and presumably launch their device profile.
That sounds like a nice rumor, but aiming to sell one device per household doesn't sound very Apple-like. What seems more likely is that Apple will make it easier to share content across multiple devices as it does with the iTunes Home Sharing feature.
Rumor: The tablet won't have a Webcam.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber--who has an excellent track record sorting out the truth in Apple rumors--reports he has heard that the tablet won't have a built-in Webcam. I hate to go against Gruber, but that sounds like a glaring omission. Considering that the super-thin MacBook Air has an iSight camera, Apple shouldn't lack the technological capability to give the tablet a Webcam. Not to mention that using iChat, Skype or Google video chat sounds like an ideal use for the device. Let's hope this rumor turns out to be false.
Those are my five picks for the most unlikely tablet rumors. What are yours?
Don't forget to join PC World on Wednesday, January 27 at 9 AM Pacific/12 PM Eastern for live blog coverage of Apple's product launch from Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.
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