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Apple ‘slate’ coming soon?

by Philip Sellers

A taped, internal meeting with New York Times folks has made its way onto the internet and it has become the latest fodder for rumors of the fabled Apple tablet.  Gizmodo and others have posted the Vimeo video of an “all hands” meeting of New York Times staff which chronicles and outlines objectives to make the journalist field take the leap towards new media, eliminating the divide between the web and real-time journalism and print products.

Bill Keller, Executive Editor for the New York Times, is outlining a series of objectives which includes point 6:

We need to figure out the right journalistic product to deliver to mobile platforms and devices. I’m hoping we can get the newsroom more actively involved in the challenge of delivering our best journalism in the form of Times Reader, iPhone apps, WAP, or the impending Apple slate, or whatever comes after that.

This adds further fuel to rumors that Apple had reached out to publishers about an impending “new product.” If there is one thing Jobs and company understand well, it is that ever tool must have a killer application (not as in software, as in utility).  The New York Times is a pretty credible source who would most likely be high on Apple’s list of initial partners offering content for a device, if that is ultimately the “slate’s” killer application.

What is interesting to note about this video, is that it was information given during what appears to have been a confidential meeting for internal staff.  It doesn’t appear this information was ever intended for its current audience, and that may throw additional validity behind the reports.  I’m sure Keller was not worried about confidentiality and other matters when divulging the information.

Other rumors point that the device is being manufactured by FoxConn (not exactly a stretch – they manufacture a lot of Apple gear – including the iPhone) and that it is destined for a Q1 2010 launch.

My take on the matter is this:  I hope that Apple will target the device with a few unexpected uses.  Everyone expected Apple to make a phone with iPod features.  But what Apple surprised us all with is a fantastic, connected Internet device.  It has since expanded upon that initial success by offering third party applications leveraging its incredible APIs and hardware.    I hope that Apple will surprise with more than just a color screened, multitouch Kindle-killer device for replacing paper.

It has also been reported that Jobs wanted the device to be more than a potty-mate, offering more than just “surfing the Web in the bathroom.”  I can’t see offering newspapers and magazine content achieving that feat, so what could that killer feature really be?

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