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Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 04:50 am PT (07:50 am ET)

Apple contacted print publications about tablet - report

The focus of Apple's long-rumored tablet device could be the transformation of newspapers, magazines and other print media, a new rumor suggests.

With anonymous information from people within various facets of the publishing world, Gizmodo has said that Apple has been reaching out to print publications about putting their products for sale on iTunes via a new piece of hardware. The report cited people familiar with The New York Times, publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press, and a trip that "several executives from one of the largest magazine groups" took to the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

Apple's tablet has been through a number of different iterations, and the project has been reset numerous times by company co-founder Steve Jobs. The report said that Jobs was presented with a tablet device that ran a modified version of OS X years ago, but the device was shelved because the company could not determine what use people would have for the hardware.

The focus of the hardware now is said to not be the playback of media, which the iPod and iPhone lines already handle well. Instead, Apple is reportedly working to have publishers place their print content on iTunes.

"The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static," the report said. "And with release dates for Microsoft's Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it'll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today."

Gizmodo also corroborates what sources have told AppleInsider — that the device will debut in early 2010.

Two people from The New York Times were allegedly contacted by Apple in June about putting their product on a "new device." And McGraw Hilll and Oberlin Press are said to be working to put their textbooks on iTunes, possibly in a DRMed format that would allow use for a period of time. And magazine executives are alleged to have presented their ideas on the future of publishing on Apple's campus. Given the evidence, the report asserts that Apple is looking to go beyond e-readers, like Amazon's Kindle, to "redefine print."