Updated with information about Apple's upcoming eventNEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With speculation mounting that Apple ( AAPL) is about to launch a Tablet computer, investors and users are keen to know what features could appear on the eagerly anticipated device. There had been some chatter that the Tablet could make its debut at the company's San Francisco event next week, although the iPod-themed invite recently sent out by Apple effectively dashed these hopes. It is now expected that the Tablet will appear at a much later date, possibly in early 2010, as suggested earlier this year by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Variously described as a giant iPhone, iPod Touch or even an e-book reader, the blogosphere is rife with Tablet talk, although at least one investor is underwhelmed by what he has heard. "My opinion is that current 'leaks' are disappointing to say the least and I hope the true product is significantly better," wrote Daniel Hung, in an email to TheStreet. "A high-function e-book reader or a 'giant iPhone', as I've heard from some sources, wouldn't impress me and wouldn't seem to be in the Apple mold." Hung, who writes the Curious Investor blog, even argues that the Tablet's rumored 10-inch screen would be ill-suited to a small touch-screen keyboard. "How annoying would it be to pen out emails or write notes having to hunt and peck on this?," he wrote. "Whereas the thumbs provide full screen coverage on an iPhone, this input scheme would be unacceptably cumbersome on a tablet-only device." Hung adds that Tablets often use a keyboard for "real typing" or some form of handwriting recognition system. The investor, however, would like to see the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm really push the Tablet envelope. "My dream for all tablet devices has been for improved native handwriting recognition or maybe some sort of voice transcription," he said. Hung's other fantasy features include a fully-fledged PC capability, the ability to browse the Internet with plugins, and tight integration with home computers. "I really do hope that Apple realizes my dream tablet, as I have been waiting for something like this for a LONG time," he added.
The consumer tech giant, which is notoriously tight-lipped on its product plans, has not responded to a previous TheStreet enquiry about its Tablet strategy, and there is no real indication of when the technology could make its debut. The Tablet space has already proved problematic for the likes of Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and Toshiba, so Apple will need to carefully position the device. If anyone knows what the kids want, though, it's Steve Jobs and his minions in the empire of fruit. Is anyone really surprised by talk that the Apple CEO is said to be personally overseeing the Tablet project? Typically, Tablet devices are found in specialist business environments such as health care, although all the signs are pointing to a big consumer play from Apple. Despite Hung's skepticism, at least one user thinks that the Tablet could even take on Amazon's ( AMZN) Kindle. "I wonder if the killer app for this is as a book reader," Rick Reidy, the CEO of Progress Software ( PRGS), told TheStreet. Reidy says that he is "utterly hooked" on the Kindle he received as a Father's Day present this year, but admits that it is not without its shortcomings. "It's great for books' where it's not good is for newspapers and magazines," explained the CEO, adding that this may present an opportunity for Apple's Tablet. "If I know Steve Jobs, it could be a book reader, but also an Internet device, it could be color, it could be fancy."
A triumph of function over form, Amazon's e-book reader lacks Apple's flair, and is facing heightened competition from firms such as Barnes & Noble ( BKS) and Sony ( SNE), which recently launched a pocket-sized offering. Whatever Apple's Tablet tastes like, though, the tech sector is eagerly awaiting its launch. "I don't have any preconceived ideas or special insight into what a computer tablet might look like," wrote Apple investor Scott Grannis, author of the Calafia Beach Pundit blog, in an email to TheStreet.com. "
But I count myself among the many who are anxiously awaiting to see what Apple's next great product is."