Better Apple Rumor: $800 Tablet By Christmas, Really

Hot rumor this morning is a sounds-true-enough reprise on the $800 supersized iPod touch for Christmas rumor, this time with a nod toward Apple using the new super iPod to save the recording industry.

The Financial Times, itself not heavily invested in Apple rumorology, call this "a portable, full-featured tablet-sized computer for the Christmas shopping season." Its mission is to offer a new interactive format for record albums that includes booklets, liner notes, and other goodies.

This is the first time lately that it has sounded like Apple might be releasing something more like a netbook (with a real keyboard) than a tablet that supports an onscreen keyboard only. The Apple netbook concept is more interesting to business users and I'd love to see it, but I am not expecting it based on reports so far.

Apple is supposedly working with four major music labels-- EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music, and Universal Music Group--on the project, supposedly codenamed "Cocktail" and timed for a September release. (This brings the tablet to market a month earlier than previous rumor had it).

To dissect this one just a bit, I have to wonder what "full-featured" means? To me, it would require a physical keyboard, which I am not sure is really in the plan. Maybe a touchscreen keyboard is what the FT is referring to.

The FT repeats the idea of a Wi-Fi tablet with a 10-inch diagonal screen and talks up the idea that book publishers see it as a Kindle competitor. Neither of those rumors is new, but the relationship with record companies is new and makes perfect sense.

Apple would want to have something really new and different to bring the new hardware to market. I'd been thinking movies as the reason people would want a new over-sized iPod, but oversized music packaging is a fun idea, too.

The question will be whether the music buying public, used to purchasing only hot hits would spend more to receive the interactive content (along with 10 album-filler tracks). I somehow doubt it, but you never know.

The FT quotes someone talking about how the new interactive packaging harking back to a time when album covers themselves were interesting and friends would sit around, listen to music and read the liner notes.

How old would someone have to be to remember doing that? 40, I'd think, with 50 being more likely?

Anyway, I find the rumor quite credible. Obviously, existing iPhone and iPod touch applications are not sized for such a large screen. If Apple wants third-party apps out for a September launch, we ought to start hearing about them fairly soon.

Or maybe Apple thinks new interactive record albums and movie rentals will be enough to drive sales, and they are probably right.

The FT didn't speculate on the device's price, but the report seemed consistent with something in the $800 range, as previously rumored.

Industry veteran David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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