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'Minor issues' could delay $999 Apple tablet availability 'til June - report


While Apple's tablet is still expected to see a formal introduction at a media event next week, issues with battery life and durability could result in a June launch, an analyst said Tuesday.

In a new note to investors, Shaw Wu with Kaufman Bros. said checks with supply chain sources indicate the launch pattern for the tablet could follow that of the original iPhone in 2007, with a January unveiling and final product shipping to consumers six months later. He said that the June launch could be due to "minor issues" with more work needed on battery life and durability.

However, he said, checks also indicate that a tablet-type device will be introduced next week, at a Jan. 27 event, where the company has advertised it plans to show off its "latest creation." Wu described the product as being like a "super" iPod touch.

"This tablet product has been described to us as a hybrid between an iPhone/ipod touch and a mac but in terms of software and components, it appears closer to the former, meaning it is most likely ARM based," he wrote. "From our understanding, it is not intended to replace a Mac but be somewhat of a 'super' iPod touch where video, gaming, Web browsing, e-books and the ability to run multiple apps would be enhanced with the much larger screen."

The analyst's claims of a June launch contradict with The Wall Street Journal, which reported earlier this month that the hardware is expected to ship in March. The device is expected to have a screen sized between 10 inches and 11 inches.

Wu also expects the device to cost around $999, citing a $100 incremental cost for a large touchscreen, according to sources in the supply chain. In addition, additional costs over the iPhone and iPod touch would come in the form of semiconductors, glass, sensors and substrates.

That estimate comes in much higher than competing analyst Gene Munster, of Piper Jaffray, who has predicted a $600 average selling price. In general, analysts expect the device to cost less than $1,000.

Wu said he believes that Wi-Fi would be the "most likely option" for network access, as opposed to 3G, so as to "not further clog already strained 3G networks." But, he said, there is still the potential for carriers to offer subsidies and lower the price point of the device for end users. He said Wi-Fi is the best option to offer broad and inexpensive high-speed Internet access.

Kaufman Bros. has predicted the "iSlate," as Wu referred to it, to sell a million units per quarter. Supply chain sources indicated that Apple hopes to build 5 million units in the first year of production. The company has reiterated its price target of $253 for AAPL stock.