Is the rumor true and, if so, will the tablet succeed in a market where no other tablet has? My answers to these questions are probably and definitely. Here's why:
Predicting Apple products is a hazardous business because there are always wildly divergent rumors circulating. Some of them have to be false, and sometimes all of them are.
Not all rumors are created equal, and this one is the best kind. Although Apple's internal discipline with keeping secrets is the stuff of legend, the company has to contract out manufacturing, usually to a company in China or Taiwan. Because so much of the world's electronics manufacturing is done in Taiwan, newspapers there specialize in cultivating unnamed sources inside outsource manufacturing firms to find out about orders from large companies around the world, including Apple. This particular rumor comes from one major Taiwanese newspaper called the China Times and translated into English by a Mac Forums member. This is a credible rumor because the newspaper is legitimate, and the reporter claims to have multiple sources from multiple companies that all point to such a tablet.
The timing also makes sense. An October surprise would enable Apple to take advantage of the holiday season.
Regardless of whether Apple ships a tablet in October or not, it's almost certain that the company will sell such a device in the near future. They'd be crazy not to.
Apple's tablet will very likely be something like a large iPod Touch. It will probably work just like the iPhone, run iPhone apps, have an on-screen keyboard and connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.
It might also sport a few features that the iPod Touch does not -- for example, a separate wireless keyboard, mobile broadband (for an additional monthly fee on your AT&T account) and a front-facing camera for videoconferencing.
Most intriguing is the direction Apple will take with software. The easy and cheap thing to do would be to install iPhone OS 3.0. But I think Apple will install a version of Mac OS X running an iPhone-like UI. That OS should be multitasking, and run iPhone apps as gadgets, rather than full-screen.
Remember when Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone in January, 2009? He sent the fanboy audience into spasms of ecstasy when he asserted unambiguously that "iPhone runs OS X." That was the last time I heard anyone from Apple say that. Now, the iPhone is said to run the iPhone OS -- something separate and distinct from the Mac OS X.
I believe it's Apple's long-term vision to have its mobile devices run OS X, and to have OS X sport the iPhone UI.
And that's what's so important about the rumored tablet. It represents the future of Apple -- and the future of personal computing.
Observers who observe that Apple is getting into the tablet or netbook business tend to miss the Big Picture. And the picture here is very big indeed.
When we think of tablet PCs, we tend to think of existing offerings from Dell or HP that may or may not convert into clamshell laptops. These device are usually too expensive and too sluggish, have pen-stylus input that doesn't at all feel like writing on paper, and they tend to be bulky awkward. As a result of all this, tablets aren't very compelling to most people.
Apple's tablet will have none of these features. Because it will run either a streamlined version of OS X or the iPhone OS, plus very small and light iPhone Apps, it will be fast and zippy. The price will be less than half what the cheapest PC tablets are. It will use finger input, not a stylus. And it should be much thinner than a PC tablet.