Apple on Monday sent out invitations to journalists inviting them to a January 27 press event at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts Theatre in San Francisco -- a move sure to fuel growing speculation about the prospect of an Apple tablet .
The invitation to the event offers no clues as to just what Apple plans to announce -- except to urge invitees to "come see our latest creation."
Wall Street analysts last month predicted that Apple might unveil a 10.1-in. tablet as early as March. More recently, industry observers have settled on the theory that Apple officials will unveil a tablet-like device on the 27th, with the product itself not shipping until March.
Just before Christmas, Gene Munster, who tracks Apple for Piper Jaffray, offered 50-50 odds that Apple would introduce its first tablet-sized device in January.
In a research note cited by several online sources, Munster said: "We expect the tablet hardware to be similar to an iPod touch but larger (about 10"); we expect the key differentiator of the device to be its software. 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."
Speculation that Apple has been working on a tablet has reached something of a fever pitch this month, a far cry from the prevailing view in late 2008, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company had no interest in the growing category of netbooks , which were then gaining popularity.
Still, Jobs left the door open to a change in strategy if Apple ever decided to join the mini-laptop/netbook/tablet game. "We'll wait and see how that nascent category evolves," he said in October 2008. "And we've got some pretty interesting ideas if it does evolve."