A prominent technology analyst predicted that Apple Inc. would release a "tablet" or mini-computer for sale early next year, and that it could boost the consumer electronics company's revenue by 3 percent in 2010.
Speculation of a tablet from Apple has been swirling among analysts and technology blogs for a couple years as other PC makers post big sales of netbooks.
The tablet from Apple will look like an iPod Touch, but a bit larger, said Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray analyst, in a research note Friday. He said he spoke with an Asian component supplier that had received orders from Apple for a touch-screen device that would need to be filled by late this year.
Munster estimated the tablet would be priced between $500 and $700 and would compete with netbooks, the tiny, low-cost, low-power laptops made by Dell, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and other computer manufacturers. Sony, the Japanese electronics and media giant, recently announced it would start selling a netbook in Japan in August, with global rollouts following.
Munster also said the tablet would run the App Store "apps," which have been very popular add-ons to the iPhone, as well as unique larger applications.
He also guessed that Apple could sell digital books from its iTunes store, making the tablet another e-book reader and competitor to Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle.
You can already download a Kindle app on the iPhone that allows it to work as an e-book.
Munster projected that Apple could sell about 2 million tablets, which could add $1.2 billion in revenue to its 2010 sales.
Excluding any tablet, he projects sales of $40.1 billion in fiscal 2010. Apple's fiscal year ends in September.
Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling said Apple does not comment on speculation.