Over the past decade the iPod has revolutionised the way we listen to music, and the iPhone is the must-have gadget when it comes to mobile phones.
So it seems entirely fitting that Apple should choose the start of a new decade to launch its latest product - which could entirely change the way we use computers.
Rumours are rife that Steve Jobs, the company’s chief executive, is planning to unveil a touch screen computer known as the ‘iSlate’ at the end of next month.
Details about the new product are being kept top secret, but expectations are high that it will be a one-piece touch screen computer that will look like a cross between an iPhone and a laptop computer.
Referred to in the industry as ‘the tablet’, it could signal the end for the keyboard and mouse system used by millions of PC users across the world.
The ‘tablet’ could be used for communication purposes as well as being a single device to download music, books, and films.
Apple has never acknowledged that such a device exists, but the company has booked the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco to make a “major product announcement” for 26 January 2010.
It is the same location where Steve Jobs, the chief executive, cofounder and driving force behind the company’s resurgence, made his return earlier this year after recovering from a liver transplant.
The company is also reported to have bought the rights to the iSlate.com website address.
If rumours of a January announcement are true, such a timetable could see the gadget in American shops from March and brought to Europe in time for next Christmas.
The California-based company’s shares soared as a result of speculation about the iSlate, valuing the company at $188 billion.
The shares have risen 145% this year, and although Jobs’s pay remained a token $1 last year, he owns more than five million shares, worth more than $1.1 billion (£600million).
And while Apple has been officially extremely tight-lipped over their new invention, an ‘insider’ told The New York Times: ‘Let’s just say Steve is extremely happy about the new tablet.’
Little detail is known about the device, including the predicted price which could be as much as £700.
But it is expected to be similar to an iPod Touch with a larger 10-inch screen, making it convenient to watch video, search the internet and read digital books.
Analysts think it will be set up to handle television and newspaper subscriptions through a wireless connection.
Writing on the TechCrunch blog, technology writer MG Siegler on the said: ‘The mouse and keyboard will one day die and everything will be touch and gesture based.
‘It will happen and the tablet computer is the latest, and perhaps most important step in a line of technology taking us there.’
Apple has a knack of getting over those details and overhauling whichever device it turns its hand to, starting with the personal computer. Earlier this decade, the iPod changed the way people listen to music, forcing the music industry to change radically.
The iPhone, from 2007, had a similar impact on telecommunications, and introduced applications to the mainstream.
Mr Siegler said if the tablet succeeds ‘it will likely redefine the role of computing in our lives just as the iPhone has.’
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