Tech Rumor of the Day: Apple's Tablet

The long-awaited Apple ( AAPL) tablet is coming next year, said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, in a research note Thursday.

Munster predicts Apple will finally unveil the 7- to-10-inch touchscreen tablet for around $600 sometime in the first half of next year.

For those following the Apple tablet saga, this will mark two years of scuttled launches. And if the people at Apple seems a little trigger-shy, you can't blame them.

Here are five reasons the Apple Tablet will flop.

First, consider that Apple itself isn't exactly sold on the whole commercial appeal of the tablet. Apple has been working on the device for at least two years, and prototypes have been ready to go for several months, according to analysts.

Second: netbooks. Apple wants to respond to the netbook trend that is cannibalizing the PC industry. The problem is that Apple's answer to cheap mini-notebooks is a premium touchscreen gadget that lacks a keyboard.

Third: size. There's a gadget dead zone between pocket-size devices and backpack-size devices. Notable victims in this territory include Apple's Newton PDA. The Amazon ( AMZN) Kindle is a possible exception, but the Kindle's one-trick application as an e-reader makes it more of a book replacement than a mobile computer.

Fourth: timing. Apple's greatest successes have been late to established categories. The iPod came three years after the first wave of MP3 players, and the iPhone followed the Research In Motion ( RIMM) BlackBerry by five years, as Munster points out in his report. Tablets, however, are a largely empty category that Apple needs to invent.

Fifth: design hubris. The iPhone is entering its third year -- end of life for hot gadgets. The iPod is is sliding into sales declines. Mac sales stopped growing and lost marketshare last quarter. So clearly Apple needs a new device. As Munster notes, the company wants to "fill the gap between the iPod touch and the MacBook." Apple will no doubt fill that gap with a beautifully designed tablet. The problem is that consumers helped create that gap, and they aren't necessarily looking for something to fill it.

"That," says Munster, "is the wild card."

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