Apple Said to Plan Tablet PC Introduction This Month

By Connie Guglielmo
Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., seeking to win a larger share of the market for handheld computers, is planning to unveil a tablet PC this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The device is scheduled to go on sale in March, said the person, who declined to be identified because details of the product are private.

Offering a tablet PC would help Apple capitalize on demand from consumers for devices that can surf the Web and play movies and music. The product may also spark fresh competition for Inc., maker of the Kindle electronic-book reader, as well as makers of netbooks such as Acer Inc., Asustek Computer Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

“We expect the key differentiator of the device to be its software,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. in Minneapolis, wrote in a note to clients last week. “Apple’s tablet would compete well in the netbook category, even though it would not be a netbook.”

Apple might sell about 1.4 million tablets in 2010 if the product goes on sale in March, Munster wrote. If the product sells for about $600, that would increase the company’s sales by about 2 percent, he said. Apple may design the tablet to support the more than 100,000 applications that currently run on its iPhone, he said.

“We are not going to comment on rumors and speculation,” said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple.

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