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Friday, January 08, 2010, 12:20 pm PT (03:20 pm ET)

Apple tablet to come wrapped in aluminum enclosure - report

Touchscreen panels for Apple's forthcoming tablet have begun shipping, and aluminum casings are expected to arrive next month, sources allegedly told Reuters.

The report, issued Friday, claims that two Taiwanese companies are supplying parts: AVY Precision Technology will begin production of the aluminum casings in February, while TPK Solutions is manufacturing the touchscreen panels. Three anonymous sources were cited in the report.

"Production of the cases will begin in February, so everything points to a second-quarter launch right now," one of the sources reportedly said. "It doesn't take that long for the company to assemble the PC together, but a second-quarter shipment date is what we're looking at now."

The alleged leaked information comes as a number of companies at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are hoping to ride the wave of tablet hype that has built for months as rumors have swirled about Apple's still-unconfirmed device. Microsoft and HP introduced what was dubbed as a slate PC, Dell previewed a 5-inch tablet concept akin to an iPod touch, and Nvidia boasted that its Tegra 2 chip would be featured in numerous tablets due to arrive in 2010.

Countless hardware makers have seen CES as an opportunity to land a preemptive strike against Apple, which is expected to announce its own touchscreen device, sized between 10 inches and 11 inches, at an event on Jan. 27. Sources this week told The Wall Street Journal that Apple would unveil the product this month and ship it to customers in March.

The Journal also alleged that Apple was experimenting with "two different material finishes" for the hardware. Friday's report, if true, would suggest that Apple settled on an aluminum backing for the device.

As Apple prepares to officially announce its tablet, reports from supposed suppliers have continued to leak. In December, it was alleged that the Cupertino, Calif., company had been seeking solutions to strengthen the glass of the 10-inch tablet displays it outsourced, which was said to delay the product's launch.