50-50 chance Apple unveils tablet next month, says analyst

Wall Street analyst Gene Munster lays bets on new tablet as rumors gain momentum

There's a 50-50 chance that Apple will introduce its first tablet-sized device next month, a noted Wall Street analyst said today.

Gene Munster, who tracks Apple for Piper Jaffray & Co., said it's an even bet that Apple will unveil a tablet in January 2010. In a research note that was cited by several online sources, including AppleInsider and 9to5Mac. Munster told investors that assuming Apple does introduce a tablet next month, he would expect the hardware to start shipping by the end of March.

"We expect the tablet hardware to be similar to an iPod touch but larger (about 10in); we expect the key differentiator of the device to be its software," Munster said in the note. "While there are several options ranging from a touch screen Mac OS X to an iPhone-like OS, we expect the tablet to be driven by a new version of Apple's iPhone OS that runs a new category of larger apps alongside all the current apps from the App Store."

Munster's note, along with a slew of other rumors today about the long-anticipated tablet, threw the Apple rumor mill into high gear.

"Our connect [sic] said there is 100% [chance] of a 7in Apple tablet, to be announced in January," added the Boy Genius Report today.

Previously, reports had pegged an Apple tablet with a screen at or close to a 10in size, with other analysts betting that the device would debut as early as February 2010.

Analysts and others have bandied about prices ranging from a low of $600 to a high of $2,000 for an Apple tablet.

Munster also said there was a 75% chance that Apple would host some kind of product announcement event next month.

If true, that would take the place of Apple's usual presentation at Macworld Conference & Expo, which is slated for Feb. 9-12, 2010. Last year, Apple said it would no longer exhibit at Macworld, and would instead focus on its own events to launch new products.

Munster did not reply to a request for additional comment today.

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