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Apple Tablet FAQs: what we know, what we don't

What will it do? How much will it cost?

What do we know about technology's worst-kept secret, the so-called Apple Tablet? Not a lot.

In fact, for something that everyone seems to know about - that Apple will unveil a tablet this week - there's no hard fact that points to the company doing just that. Apple has said nothing about a tablet, yea or nay, unless you count the leaks to the Wall Street Journal that many have assumed originated with Apple itself.

Without facts, what we have is rumours and rumours of rumours. See: Steve Jobs launches Apple iPad: full details

That admission makes this more of an anti-FAQ than an FAQ, so bear with us. Just remember that until Wednesday, when Apple kicks off the invitation-only press event that everyone assumes will focus on a tablet, no one outside the company, or at best, a very small circle of reviewers, knows anything.

Will Apple unveil a tablet on Wednesday? If it doesn't, the non-announcement will be one of the biggest gotchas in modern consumer electronics history, a vapourware debacle fueled by Apple enthusiasts and Wall Street analysts - but not suppressed by the company.

Apple keeps secrets better than the former Soviet KGB, so nothing is certain until the words spill out of their executives' mouths. But virtually every analyst and pundit has bought into the idea of an Apple tablet. The invitations that the company issued last week said, "Come see our latest creation," seemingly confirming that Apple will pull back the sheet and reveal a tablet January 27.

If it doesn't deliver, the backlash will be as newsworthy as the tablet's debut would have been.

How big a screen? A 10in diagonal display - or maybe a 7in model.

That's one of the biggest ongoing arguments about the tablet. Will Apple go for a one-two punch, with a smaller tablet based on a 7in. screen at the outset, then ship a larger device later? Aaron Vronko, who has torn apart all kinds of consumer electronics - and whose company RapidRepair services iPhones and iPods - says that a 10in tablet is inevitable, but that Apple may open with a 7in.

Vronko based his bet on the power demands of LCD screens and the lack of production volume for power-sipping OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays in the 10in size.

Others have claimed that Apple will sell more than one model. Last November, reports circulated from Asian component makers - the source of many of the last year's rumours - who said Apple would deal out a pair of devices, including a smaller model that relies on an OLED display.

But everyone else apparently does. The range runs from a low of $500 to a high of $2,000, with most speculation focusing on the $800 to $1,000 range.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, has for months said that a tablet would fill the price gap between the iPod touch, which maxes out at $399, and the lowest-priced MacBook, which lists for $999, the reason why he and others have pegged $800 as the probable price.

But Apple often goes against the grain when it prices products, and it's not known for low-balling. Expect a higher price, we say, because of demand - sure to be intense among the faithful - and because it gives Apple room to later reduce the price, the tactic it used with the first-geneation iPhone in 2007.

The immediate out-of-pocket impact could be softened if Apple, as some expect, partners with one or more mobile carriers that would subsidize the consumer's costs by requiring commitment to a multi-year data plan.

NEXT: internet connectivity?

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