CES is just around the corner and, boy, would I hate to be launching a consumer electronics product right now. The blogwaves are completely inundated with a blizzard of rumors about the soon-to-be released be-all and end-all tablet by Apple, aka the ‘iSlate.’

It seems that really, truly no one knows what this product will actually do, look like or cost. But we do know it is the most guarded product launch in Apple’s history and like the game-changing iPod, Steve Jobs is personally managing the product release, fueling the fires of speculation about this mythical object.

I gave up trying to get to the bottom of this bottomless pit of rumors, so instead I opted for a list of the top 6 Apple tablet rumors now circulating the Web and what the certainty of each is (in my humble estimation) on a scale of 10-100 percent:

1. The Apple tablet is called the iSlate.
Certainty: 80 percent
MacRumors broke the story on Christmas Day that Apple procured the web domain iSlate.com. At first glance it would be hard to conclude just on this fact that that would be the actual name of the product. But TechCrunch found out that Apple bought the domain from a dummy company set up several years ago by Apple.

2. The ‘iSlate’ will be unveiled late January.
Certainty: 90 percent
This is very likely. According to the rumor mill some sort of announcement is to be made on Jan. 7, followed by quarterly earnings around Jan. 20 and an “event” planned at the Yerba Buena Center in downtown San Francisco on Jan. 27. The Guardian.co.uk reports Apple rented a stage at the center, and it is the same location that Jobs had his big comeback (from the brink of death) coinciding with the launch of the iPods.

The timing of the three events, according to some, is perfectly synchronized to bolster stock prices (already up 8 percent on rumors of the tablet).

3. The iSlate will be 10” (diagonal)
Certainty: 70 percent
Yesterday a leaked “Spec document” surfaced which indicates a 7.1” screen, but some have discredited it for its misspelling of the term Multi-touch. Apple spells it “Multi-Touch.” To date, the more prevalent rumor is that the device will have a 10” screen, stemming from a report that Apple placed a major order of 10” screens from Innolux.

4. The iSlate is basically a supersized iPhone.
Certainty: 50 percent
More probably it will be like a giant iTouch – halfway between a laptop and a mobile media player & camera with all the apps PLUS an e-book reader. Most everyone agrees the device could be packaged with a calling plan, but if so, the carrier is playing dumb. There are no current rumors about AT&T or any other network extending to the tablet.

It is however, very unlikely that Steve Jobs would have said he is “happy” with the product if it didn’t promise to turn the industry on its head… and that means it won't be a boring old tablet and it will certainly trump the accomplishments of both the Kindle (and the myriad Kindle-killers) AND the just released Google Tablet. Which takes us to the next rumor…

5. The iSlate screen will make you feel like you live in a sci-fi movie.
Certainty: 90 percent
Apple is famous for pushing the envelope in user-interface, and there is no WAY that the device will be a simple multi-touch screen like the iPhone. The simple multi-touch function (which allows you to pinch the screen together or apart using two contact points) is so last decade. 

AppleInsider reports a bevy of futuristic patents, several of which could be incorporated into the tablet.

One patent indicates multiple — as in 10 or more — contact points (like the new 3M Multi-touch) which could even allow the manipulation of 3-dimensional objects. Another patent indicates the potential of an “articulating frame” which means that when desired, the user could make a keyboard physically rise up from the oil-resistant (oleophobic) surface of the device.

6. The iSlate will kill the Kindle, the laptop, and also possibly TV.
Certainty: 20 percent
To me none of the rumors about the iSlate are more thought-provoking than the notion of a built-in projector which could deliver hi-def TV onto your wall at home. I’m going to put the chances of this at very low. No, the iSlate is not likely to kill TV anytime in the near future (especially once TVs go 3-D) but don’t forget the power of Apple to redefine entire industries (remember those CD players?). You never know.

Will the iSlate be the real Kindle killer? Probably not. The WSJ puts the price tag at $800, making the Kindle look cheap. But the iSlate may well kill another era-defining device — the laptop. Lighter, brighter, more powerful, better connectivity, more functions, millions of free apps, a cool virtual keyboard ... perhaps the iSlate should be coined the “laptop-killer.”

Any others you care to add?

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