The rumor mill has gone into overdrive in anticipation of Apple's release of a tablet computer. Various names including the iSlate, iPad, and MacBook Touch are making the rounds on the Internet. There are also plenty of leaked images (likely faux fan creations); hearsay quotes (Steve Jobs has been rumored to have said, "This will be the most important thing I've ever done"); analyst speculation; and tweets purporting to reveal supply-chain intelligence.
Among the most common assertions: Apple will settle on a price point near $1,000 for a multi-functional touch-screen device that has persistent 3G wireless, including video and gaming capabilities. It's also assumed to be a vehicle for delivery of a host of digital content, from electronic books and music to newspapers and magazines. It's safe to say it's smaller than a breadbox, but will it replace your TV? Could lead the publishing world back to profitability? Might it make your smart-phone obsolete?
"Everybody is hoping for something, seeing their own image in it. It's going to save the movie business or it's going to save the book business," says Mark Potts, CEO of GrowthSpur, which provides tools for websites. "Next, they'll be saying it's going to cure cancer."
So which rumors are solid and which are fantastical? Here is a round-up of the stories, with our odds on how likely they are to be true.
1. Apple's tablet will respond to your voice, face, and movement.
The Theory: Armed with voice and motion-recognition software, Apple's tablet will know its owner and be able to respond to subtle hand gestures. The Wall Street Journal reported that a front-facing camera could, through face recognition, make it easier for users to share the device, ostensibly with family members or within an office.
The Reality: Sure, multi-touch input is coming, and a range of touch-pad finger-gestures could be incorporated into a new Apple product. But camera-captured user motion, or 'air gestures,' still seem to be a long way off, analysts say. Voice recognition and response beyond what certain software and smartphones already use is similarly fairly impractical for widespread adoption. A front-facing camera is possible, and would be logical for video conferencing, but with the device's specs still a mystery, face-recognition remains a stretch.
The Odds: 10 to 1.
2. Apple's tablet will be able to make holograms (or at least video projections.)
The Theory: Along with high-definition audio and video, the device will also be able to project images and video.
The Reality: Power management will undoubtedly already be an issue with a touch-enabled color-screen device. The anticipated MacBook Air-sleek frame makes an internal projector hard to fathom.
Odds: 80 to 1.
3. The tablet will be priced to move.
The Theory: An outfit called Media Markt set off a frenzy when it tweeted that the Apple iPad would be available March 1 for 499 Euros. That's about $700. While that price wouldn't put the new device in the same price category as e-readers or iPhones, it would represent a significant drop compared with Apple laptop costs – especially if high-quality television and movie streaming features are involved.
The Reality: The Twitter account was fake and the tweet bogus, according to TechCrunch. Also: Apple devices and computers are not traditionally price leaders, and it's doubtful that the recession is going to change that.
The Odds: 5 to 1 that it's less than $999.
4. The event invitation contains a tell-all code.
The Theory: With its bright spray-paint splotches and vague text ('Come see our latest creation'), Apple's invitation to its January 27 unveiling is frustrating some gadget fiends, and unleashing the conspiracy theorist in others. Is that a vague grey outline in the shape of the new tablet in the background? Do the vertical spray drips mean the tablet sits upright? Or does the pattern symbolize content creation capability? Are artists the target audience? Are the splotches a Rorschach inkblot symbolizing the publishing industry? Is the device's name encoded in the message?
The Reality: Unlikely, though we'll leave room for some apparent symbolism.
The Odds: 5 to 2.
5. Actually, the tablet doesn't exist.
The Theory: Steve Jobs will emerge before the eager crowd at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday, announce a new version of iLife and iPhone OS 4.0, and quietly duck offstage. 'It would be the ultimate in vaporware,' Potts says.
The Reality: It exists.
The Odds: 10,000 to 1.