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50% Chance Of A New Multi-touch Apple Device At WWDC, Says Analyst


Chicago (IL) - The stakes in the Apple Newton multi-touch tablet guessing game have just been raised: American Technology Research analyst Shawn Wu believes there is a one in two chance that we will be seeing a new form factor multi-touch device from Apple at WWDC next Monday. If we are looking at speculations that a multi-touch enabled OS X "Snow Leopard" could be in the queue for WWDC as well, it appears to us that all the technology pieces are falling into place.

The rebirth of the Apple Newton has become a hot topic in the blogosphere after all. Shaw Wu from American Technology Research fueled speculations by stating that there is a 50% chance that Apple will introduce a new form factor mobile internet device (MID) at Apple’s developer’s conference set to open on Monday.

"We believe there is a 50% chance that a new form factor will be introduced, marking Apple’s entrance into the emerging ’MID’ or mobile internet device market. Our sources indicate 4" and 7" touchscreen devices beyond prototype stage that are a cross between a Mac and an iPod touch," Wu wrote in a report sent to AmTech clients on Thursday and preprinted by AppleInsider. The analyst’s opinion echoes our own belief that the time is ripe for Apple to introduce a Newton-like multi-touch capable mobile device. Recently revealed handwriting recognition capability set to debut in iPhone 2.0 firmware is an early indication of one of the key user interface features of the alleged "Newton 2" handheld.

Is the Newton tablet an unwanted baby?

It is known that Apple had the Newton tablet ready a few years ago, but Steve Jobs decided to kill it. If you believe him, the company has no intention to bring a Mac tablet to the market. Seriously?

It wouldn’t be the first time Apple would the opposite of what Jobs said. For example, when the iPod started taking off, Jobs said there is no reason to introduce video capability to the music player, since you can’t watch video on the move while doing something else, unlike listening to the music which is a background activity. A few months later, the company upgraded the iPod with video playback capabilities.

The company also was mum about its rumored mobile phone project. During the Macworld 2007 keynote, Jobs confirmed the rumors were true and announced the iPhone with a splash. So, we wonder, is the Newton really out of the question, or simply another case of a product Jobs pulls out of his pocket? Let’s be honest: We all have been waiting for such a device for a while - we suggested more than a year ago that Intel should talk to Apple about an UMPC-like device. To us, such a device makes perfect sense in Apple’s product strategy.

And if we stay with Apple-focused websites, AppleInsider has been supporting the Mac-tablet idea since last September. Obviously, the word is out there.

Many believe that Apple is developing new gadgets to expand its footprint into the consumer electronics space. One can guess what’s next for Apple, but all the checks indicate that Apple is focused on small-factor MIDs equipped with multi-touch technology. Multi-touch has become one of the key features in Apple’s current and upcoming products. At the center of Apple’s foray into the consumer electronics space is the OS X operating system, powering everything from desktop and mobile computer products to the iPod/iPhone mobile devices and devices such as the Apple TV. However, multi-touch has yet to be integrated into OS X . It is our opinion that the next OS X upgrade, code-named Snow Leopard, will be introduced at the WWDC, with multi-touch as one of its key features.

Apple needs a multi-touch enabled operating system as soon as possible - not only to beat Microsoft’s Windows 7, which also touts multi-touch as a key feature - but to simplify the development of future multi-touch products and provide a common denominator for third-party programmers who are developing applications for devices such as the iPhone.

Putting the puzzle together, we may be looking at a multi-touch equipped Snow Leopard powering MIDs such as a Newton tablet. This reasoning is echoed by Shaw Wu who thinks that "it is inevitable that Apple will bring more touchscreen devices to market." However, the analyst stops short of predicting that such a device will be introduced at WWDC, explaining that the "exact timing of production isn’t clear."