Could Apple's rumored iSlate tablet be another game changer?

Rumors are circulating that Apple is about to unveil its new tablet computer

The other evening as I was about to go to sleep, I wanted to look up some obscure fact on Wikipedia. My iPhone was downstairs and I certainly wasn't about to start up my laptop. "Forget about it," I thought. "I'll look it up in the morning."

But then a deeper question arose: How come no one has delivered an instant-on small-form factor pocketable device with a keyboard optimized for fast Web access? Maybe I'm the only one who remembers the long-ago Psion 5mx, which had a great keyboard and built-in applications all packaged in a clamshell device that fit in a jacket pocket.

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I don't know if I'm ever going to see a device like the Psion 5 updated for the 21st century with a color screen and Wi-Fi, but rumors indicate the Apple tablet could come pretty close. The Financial Times broke a story stating that Apple has an event in San Francisco on Jan. 26 that might well be the official unveiling of Apple's tablet computer. AppleInsider reports that Apple has filed patents on a virtual keyboard with tactile feedback via an "articulated frame" that provides bumps and dips in an otherwise smooth screen surface. I wouldn't want to type an InfoWorld blog on my iPhone's virtual board, so anything is bound to be an improvement.

I'd really like to see a full-blown keyboard, even if it's smaller and with fewer keys than a full-size laptop. Heck, I'd be willing to settle for a third-party bluetooth keyboard that attaches to the tablet.

Given the wealth of iPhone applications available, Apple's so-called iSlate would have a tremendous headstart right out of the gate. Presumably, iPhone apps could run as widgets in their original screensize and newer apps would be able to take advantage of the larger display. Who would would need a dedicated reader once Apple's general-purpose tablet comes out?

Who knows if all these rumors will pan out? But one final question remains about Apple's tablet: Will it be pronounced iSlate or isLate?

This story, "Could Apple's rumored iSlate tablet be another game changer?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in open source, Apple, and mobile at InfoWorld.com.

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