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Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 10:15 am PT (01:15 pm ET)

Apple evaluated 4- to 12-inch tablet screens - report

Apple has reportedly purchased a number of screens — ranging from 4 inches to 12 inches in size — over the last few years, as it explores its possible entry into the tablet and sub-notebook market, according to a financial analyst.

In a research note issued Tuesday, Kaufman Bros. revealed that Apple has bought screen sizes of 4, 7, 9, 10 and 12 inches over the last two years. Some of the purchases were allegedly of such a large amount that the firm suspects they were for more than a simple sample, but a more significant small production run.

Based on that information, the analysis predicts that Apple will launch at least one — but possibly multiple — new devices in the near future.

"We are under the impression that these screens could be used in new form factors including a sub-notebook and/or tablet, and would more likely launch in 2010 as opposed to 2009," the note reads. "As usual, exact timing is always tough to pinpoint as Apple works on its own schedule."

Analyst Shaw Wu expects the new form factor adopted by Apple to help carry the company's stock higher. Kaufman Bros. has set a price target of $184 for AAPL stock and recommends that investors buy.

The firm's prediction jibes with AppleInsider's sources, who believe Apple's expected new tablet device, with a 10" display and integrated 3G service, will arrive no sooner than early 2010. Akin to a jumbo iPod touch, the device is said to be the latest brainchild of chief executive Steve Jobs, and a modern day reincarnation of the company's defunct Newton MessagePad.

Kaufman Bros. also believes that Apple, as is expected, will use China Unicom as its wireless carrier in the nation of over 1 billion. It is expected that an agreement will be made official before Februrary 2010. The firm notes that a Chinese-model iPhone is currently in "beta testing."

Last week it was unveiled that a new iPhone model has been granted regulatory approval in China. The new iPhone is reportedly a GSM/WCDMA model that operates on the 900MHz, 1700MHz and 1900MHz bands. It also includes Bluetooth, but no Wi-Fi. It was approved on May 7, according to a China's State Radio Regulatory Commission filing, and can be used in China for the next five years.