Apple's long-rumoured touchscreen mini computer 'out before Christmas'

LONDON - Apple is racing to release a "tablet" sized computer, a cross between its iPod Touch and Macbook laptops, before the Christmas shopping season, though only in the US according to the Financial Times.

The FT claims its sources say the Apple tablet is expected to be launched in conjunction with a number of content deals by year-end, including music, film and book tie-ins, in what the entertainment industry hopes will be a "new revolution".

The gadget is likely to measure 10-inches diagonally, with a touchscreen and internet connectivity, like a larger iPhone without the mobile access.

Apple's content deals, code named Cocktail, would also tie-in with the device.

For example, music lovers would be enticed to purchase full-length albums from Apple's iTunes store by receiving bonus materials, such as liner notes, artwork and music videos, which would look ideal on the tablet.

The music industry has often criticised Apple's iTunes model, where customers usually purchase one or two tracks instead of entire albums. The company was recently pressured to increase the price of its singles, while album prices remained the same.

Project Cocktail would also see the company striking content deals with book publishers, setting the tablet up as a competitor in the nascent e-book market, against newly established devices like Amazon's Kindle or the Barnes & Noble's eReader.

The FT says that Apple has not briefed film executives, but a number of Hollywood producers have shown interest in such a device. The video games industry is also said to be eagerly awaiting the tablet launch.

Apple has continually dispelled rumours that it is entering the low-end computers market -- also known as netbooks -- no-frills machines manufactured by companies like Asus or Dell, retailing as low as £150.

A tablet device would allow Apple to keep its word, as analysts predict the gadget would retail between £400-£500.

The company currently dominates the high-end computers market. A recent study found that nine out of every ten laptops purchased over the price of $1000 (£600) is an Apple device.

Apple has also "revolutionised" the smartphone market -- the company sold 5.2m iPhones last quarter, and more than 30m since 2007.

Rumours have it that Apple is planning on staking its claim in the portable video market as well by offering video cameras with every new iPod, which could also be launched before Christmas.

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