It wouldn’t be January without….

….a little fireworks, Cupertino style.

In much of the media, Apple tablet rumors–and even its quarterly financial results–are showing up even more intensely than anything the company has brought to market before. Obviously, that’s saying something. But in those same media, that sentence would more commonly have ended with something more like “the run-up to the Super Bowl.” It’s little secret to most of this site’s readers that for the Mac community, the frantic run-up to an Apple Event makes the circus of a Super Bowl look like a well-mannered sit-down for British tea and crumpets.

Our January 27th Apple Event coverage starts with an overview and some analysis of the quarterly financial results that the company just announced this evening.

Obviously if you’re getting your Apple rumor coverage from us rather than say CNN or Wired, you already have some idea of what’s anticipated for January 27th’s Apple Event: a Tablet-like iDevice expanding the iPhone/iPod Touch family into a new realm that even further blurs the line between “computer” and “device.” Associated announcements may include a major new version of the “iPhone OS” for existing devices that includes some crossover features and long-awaited core improvements, new software and services to support the new iDevice, and big changes to iTunes.

There is of course the usual peripheral speculation about other things like Mac-related announcements, but except inasmuch as all things Apple will be increasingly rife with “crossover” characteristics as the company better integrates its broadening product lineup….we aren’t expecting much of that sort of thing. This will be a focused event: iDevices, software and services as well as the relationships with other companies that will make all of those things successful, are the consensus expectations.

But the hardcore rumormonger wants to know more: as much as it is possible to know, given how much is determined minute-to-minute by a couple of dozen people at Infinite Loop.

We will be going out on a limb, making a few predictions about the Tablet’s hardware and the other things we expect to see at this Event over the next 24-36 hours. But what are the “insider” bullet points as we see them?

  • Apple has aggressively pursued a number of trademarks associated with the tablet in some way: iSlate, MagicSlate, iPad, iGuide and others. Don’t necessarily expect any of these to be the moniker of the big Tablet, however; most of them are obviously just covering the company’s legal bases and giving the Executive Suite options during the decision-making process which we’re told culminated in a final decision in the weeks after Steve Jobs’ return to work in September. The name has been an extremely closely held secret, and even the 100 or so finalized prototypes which exist don’t have any name on them.
  • That said, the adoption of the “magic” name associated with more than one of Apple’s projects focusing on innovative new input methods/devices is a strong hint about how hard the company is working on pushing that envelope further. Multi-Touch input has room for growth; but the frontiers include camera-captured “air gestures,” voice control/recognition and other technology considered too “futuristic” to be practical for widespread adoption until now. It’s public knowledge that Infinite Loop has acquired companies working in these areas and been aggressively hiring for such projects.
  • Will the iTablet be a Mac or a pure iDevice? The answer is that even the iPhone/iPod Touch, and the iPhone OS, were always secretly Mac. Hand-held multi-touch Macs with ARM processors instead of Intel chips, Macs that with a few Apple-built exceptions run only one application at a time, but Macs nonetheless. The Tablet will blur those lines much, much further. Talk of what “family” of OS X technology it will use ignores the fact that while the public tips of the iceberg, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and iPhone OS 3.0, were being developed…much of the operating system work going on was already laying the foundation to “cross over” fuller Mac-like capabilities onto an ARM based mobile platform.
  • As for the talk of new 3G/4G cellular carrier relationships for the iTablet (and eventually iPhone), today the company defended its current exclusive partner AT&T in its earnings conference call. While we do anticipate hearing about emerging relationships with Verizon, T-Mobile et al soon–definitely no later than the middle of this year when the current contract between Apple and AT&T expires–the relationship with AT&T will be an important one for a long time to come. We can only hope that will give AT&T reason to more aggressively improve upon its shortcomings rather than rest on its laurels.

Whether Apple will shatter expectations or simply meet them depends very much on just how much of the endless stream of rumors you’ve been keeping up on in recent weeks…..and just what you consider “shattering.” We do see a few areas–notably how the user will interact with and enter input (gestures, object controls/interface, text entry, recording of other content such as audio and video)–that will almost certainly be a surprise to many and exceed the expectations of all but the most wildly speculative few who usually manage to cover so many possible bases that it’s almost impossible to completely surprise them.

The biggest question, which all of the other details boil down to, repeated over and over in the mainstream media articles for general consumption, is “can any tablet succeed when the market so far has been a graveyard for duds and fizzles?” rather than the Mac community’s inside geek-talk which is mostly brimming with confidence.

We share that confidence, on a level far exceeding what we experienced when we predicted the AppleTV or even the iPhone — and as the coming days will underscore more than once, the AppleTV is only just beginning to hit its stride — but that question is still looming over everything Apple does in the “tablet space.” Expect to see a lot of emphasis on just how different this new iDevice is from existing tablet computers….a stark differentiation even more dramatic than the quantum leap between the iPhone and early smartphones.

Rumors will have a lot more to say in the days ahead, both before and after Wednesday’s Event at the Yerba Buena Center. Stay tuned to the web site and our Twitter feed (@MacOSRumors) for updates; we’re going to be introducing some new ways to interact with us amidst all this, and of course will be bringing you Live Coverage of the Event itself starting a few minutes before Steve Jobs takes the stage at 1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific. As always, we enjoy answering your questions so feel free to submit them via Twitter, email, AIM (MacOSRumors), or the web comments form below!

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  • Calenril

    The new device will be called the Steve-iDoor, and among other things is designed to increase adoration of Steve Jobs and will double as a hat.

  • Calenril

    The new device will be called the Steve-iDoor, and among other things is designed to increase adoration of Steve Jobs and will double as a hat.