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Apple's tablet will be more than a niche product - report

A new financial analysis predicts that Apple's yet-to-be-announced tablet will launch in early 2010 and sell about 2 million units in its first year — and at an estimated $600 each, that would be an additional $1.2 billion in revenue.

The report, from market research firm Piper Jaffray, states that potential revenue from such a device has not yet been included in forecast models for Apple on Wall Street. The firm predicts that the product would increase the company's overall revenue by 3 percent in 2010.

"While at first glance this may appear to address a niche market, we believe the addressable market is larger than that of the Apple TV, of which Apple sold about 1.2m in its first year," the report states.

Piper Jaffray analysts also shared inside information that further suggests that the tablet will launch in early 2010. That reaffirms claims made by AppleInsider's own sources.

"Last week we spoke with an Asian component supplier that has received orders from Apple for a touch-screen device to be fulfilled by late CY09," the report reads. "This data point underscores our thesis that a tablet will likely launch in early CY10."

The firm sees a tablet filling a void between the iPod touch and low-end MacBook. While the product will not be a netbook and will not be marketed as a netbook, Senior Research Analyst Gene Munster believes the product would be geared towards users who want convenient, inexpensive computers for simple tasks like Web browsing and checking e-mail.

We believe an Apple tablet would be priced 30%-50% below the $999 MacBook, and would offer best in class web, email, and media software," the report reads. "In other words, we believe Apple's tablet would compete well in the netbook category even though it would not be a netbook."

Munster also speculates that the device will run a version of the iPhone OS and have access to the App Store. The larger screen could also allow for multitasking, which is not currently available on the iPhone. He believes this is more likely than Apple making OS X "touch friendly."

"Apple could choose to simply run the current App Store apps on the larger device, with enough usable space for multiple apps to run (multi-tasking)," the report states. "Key apps, like Safari and Mail, could be made larger to make use of the larger screen resolution, making Apple's tablet appealing for more extended use, and the company could continue to leverage its primary asset in mobile computing, the App Store, in this scenario. We believe this is the most likely scenario given the success of the multi-touch platform and the App Store ecosystem, which could be accelerated with a tablet device."

While the supposed Apple tablet has been expected for years, in recent weeks the amount of news on the device has reached a fever pitch. Earlier this week, another Wall Street analysis firm, Kaufman Bros., revealed that Apple had investigated screen sizes ranging from 4 inches to 12 inches for its tablet. And last month, a Chinese newspaper reported that Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. could begin assembling tablets as soon as September.