Apple tablet 'ready for release'

Speculation that Apple will soon unveil a tablet-style gadget for consuming music, movies, books and other media is intensifying.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is planning to take the wraps off such a device this month and begin shipping it in March.



That jibes with several online reports that the company has scheduled an event for 26 or 27 January at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco, one of Apple's customary spaces for product launches.



The gadget, which online pundits have at different times christened the iTablet and the iSlate, is to have a 10-inch to 11-inch (25-centimetre to 28-centimetre) touch screen, a bit smaller than those on Apple's MacBook laptops but larger than the iPhone's, said the Journal, citing unnamed people briefed on the matter.



Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the company does not comment on rumors and speculation.



Apple, which is based in Cupertino, California, has so far stayed out of the "netbook" category of small laptops with relatively weak processors and sub-$500 (£312) price tags. The company has said it doesn't know how to make a good computer for less than $500, but has indicated it has been considering alternative ideas for that space.

Analysts have predicted Apple's new gadget could cost anywhere from $500 (£312) to $1,000 (£623), with or without a cellular data plan included.



Also on Monday, Sprint Nextel said it has made a multiyear deal with a startup called Skiff for a thin electronic-book reader that operates over Sprint's high-speed 3G network as well as Wi-Fi.



The Skiff Reader will have an 11.5-inch (29-centimetre) screen, larger than those on competing devices including Amazon.com's Kindle, Sony's eReader and Barnes & Noble's Nook.



Sprint and Skiff tout the device as the thinnest to date, at just over a quarter of an inch thick. The reader's entire page will be a touch screen, unlike the Kindle, which uses physical buttons for navigation, or the Nook, which has a small built-in touch screen separate from the book page.



The Skiff Reader will connect to its own online content store. Skiff said it is also working with other electronics manufacturers to put its technology into a variety of devices.



The companies are planning to demonstrate the device at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its price and availability date were not disclosed.

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