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Saturday, January 09, 2010, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Apple tablet may ship with multi-touch version of iWork

Apple has reportedly spent a considerable amount of time in recent years working on a version of its iWork productivity suite that could be controlled solely through the use of complex multi-touch gestures, making it well-suited for inclusion on the company's forthcoming tablet device.

Those claims were embedded in a profile piece Saturday published by the New York Times on the growing number of slate-like computing devices that are in the process of making their way to market, or already on the market, including the Kindle, the Alex, the Que proReader and the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid.

In particular, the newspaper cited "conversations with several former Apple engineers" who've reportedly had a key role in the ongoing development of Apple's much-anticipated tablet device who suggest the company may require that users adapt to a "somewhat complex new vocabulary of finger gestures to control it, making use of technology it acquired in the 2007 purchase of a company called FingerWorks."

“The tablet should offer any number of unique multitouch experiences — for example, three fingers down and rotate could mean ‘open an application,’ ” one former Apple engineer reportedly told the paper. A second added that the Cupertino-based company has “spent the past couple of years working on a multitouch version of iWork."

Based on these rumblings, the Times speculates that Apple's looking to market its upcoming tablet device as "a fully functional computer, rather than a more passive device for reading books and watching movies." Such a move could reportedly help the electronics maker seek a higher average selling price for the device when it hits the market later this year.

Apple is widely expected to introduce its tablet offering later this month, with recent reports predicting that the device will be available for purchase near the end of the first quarter (March) or sometime the following quarter (which runs April - June).