But the tablet will also likely take user interaction one step further. The iPod became synonymous with the scroll-wheel, and the iPhone with the flick of a finger. The tablet will probably employ multi-touch - the ability to use more than one finger simultaneously on the screen to input commands. Because most people generally have a harder time typing on a virtual keyboard, and tablets don't tend to have physical keyboards, the Apple device will likely rely heavily on "gestures" - predetermined movements of the fingers that prompt specific actions. If a user wants to rotate a photo, for example, they place five fingers on the screen in the outline of a circle, and rotate.
As several analysts point out, there exists a group of diehard Apple fans who will buy the tablet once it comes out, regardless of price or specifications. But ultimately, the tablet's success or failure with a wider customer base will likely rest on its ability to keep users connected. The tablet is expected to have a built-in camera, as well as the ability to handle Wi-Fi and 3G networks.
The tablet's connectivity options could pose a problem for Canadian users. According to sources, Apple considered bundling free 3G connectivity with the tablet. One such option could be to partner with a carrier such as Verizon in the United States and offer, say, access to Twitter at no cost to the user. Other companies have tried the same route. The Amazon Kindle e-reader, for example, allows users in the U.S. to surf the Web on a no-frills browser for free.
But that free access is part of the reason the Kindle was late coming to Canada, as Amazon and Canadian carriers had trouble seeing eye-to-eye on the costs of the free wireless component. Coupled with the relatively small Canadian market, such issues could delay the tablet's launch in Canada, much the same way Canadians waited almost 10 months to get their hands on the iPhone.
But such concerns are likely premature, given that the Apple tablet, if it even exists, is still hidden behind fortress-like security. What is clear is that Apple's business strategy is firmly focused on expanding its dominance in digital entertainment. The success of the iTunes store made Apple the world's largest seller of music. With a tablet, the company would have a device in the market with enough processing power to handle all manner of multimedia, from high-definition movies to big-budget games, productivity software and social networking.
"I think what Apple wants to do with the tablet is converge many more functions," says Mr. Tran of Morningstar.
"They want to be the centre of the digital lifestyle."