Apple Tablet release date pushed back?

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Nothing like a good Apple rumor to set the Web ablaze.

For weeks, tech bloggers have been bandying about news of an "iTablet" – a touch-screen computer which would likely be priced under $800, and debut in time for the back-to-school rush. Think an oversized iPod Touch, or a consumer-ready version of that cool computer from "Minority Report." The tablet, analysts have argued, would allow Apple to go head-to-head with a company such as Asus, which manufacturers a line of wildly popular netbooks.

"For Apple, this could be its answer to the netbook craze – 20 million of those scaled-down PCs will be shipped to retailers this year, doubling last year's output," CNET's Erica Ogg wrote in June. "Apple has been fairly clear in its distaste for [netbooks].... But there is clearly a market, particularly given the current state of the economy, for a device in that middle range between a smartphone and a laptop."

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As Gregory M. Lamb of the Monitor has noted, the difference between computers, netbooks, and phones is shrinking fast. "The cost is becoming similar, with the priciest smart phones now more expensive than the cheapest netbooks (about $300). Wireless carriers are beginning to add netbook plans, plunging the cost of a netbook with a service plan to as low as $50, similar to discounted phones if users sign up for a contract," Lamb writes.

If Apple could further blur the line between their popular iPhones and a larger touchscreen product, they could land a wide new audience. But is Apple actually preparing an "iTablet"? According to Jim Dalrymple over at The Loop, the device is forthcoming. But not for a few months. "Very reliable sources familiar with the product have said speculation of the tablet being introduced during the September event are flat out wrong. The Apple tablet, they said, would not see the light of day until the first part of 2010," Dalrymple reports.

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