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Apple tablet speculation: high-end graphics, several models

Amplifying the buzz for Apple's long-rumored tablet device, a new report suggests the hardware will include a high-end graphics card to produce a picture with "stunning resolution."

In a roundup of speculation on the still-unannounced device, spoke with a number of analysts about the forthcoming tablet, set to debut in the first quarter of 2010. Most analysts heaped praise on the mythical device, predicting that it will take on a number of markets and eliminate the need for numerous devices.

One analyst, Laura DiDio with ITIC, reportedly provided supposed specifics on the hardware. She said the device will sport a "high-end graphics card" that will offer picture at a "stunning resolution" greater than the iPhone and iPod touch. She also stated that the device will come in "several different models," suggesting that a 3G-enabled version would be tied to a contract with a wireless carrier such as AT&T.

"Any time Steve Jobs gets on stage, the expectations are incredibly high, but they are especially lofty for the tablet," the report said. "Analysts and investors are saying that this device could revolutionize the handheld world in the same way the the iPhone changed the smartphone market."

DiDio also said that Apple's successor to the Newton will include a Web cam that will allow simple mobile video conferencing. That would support a rumor that surfaced this summer, which also stated the tablet would have an "education edition" geared towards schools.

Analysts surveyed said they believe the device will "kill" single-function devices like the Amazon Kindle by offering books, Web browsing, gaming, entertainment and on-the-go computing. The belief that the hardware will serve as a general-purpose device was also recently stated by Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal.

Many see the hardware as potentially filling a void between the iPhone and the low-end MacBook. Some believe it could be Apple's answer to the low-cost, ultra-portable netbook market. Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray has predicted that the hardware will sell about 2 million units in its first year.

While rumors of the Apple tablet have captivated Apple fans and the tech community, the hardware has reportedly also been the primary focus of company co-founder Steve Jobs. This summer, it was reported that the touchscreen device has been his No. 1 priority since returning to work from a liver transplant. Jobs' return to work was said to be "jarring" for those involved in the creation of the tablet, as the CEO is very hands-on.