We're still hearing rumors of a January 26th launch for the much-discussed Apple Tablet, and according to the latest from oft-insider Josh Gruber of Daring Fireball, all the signs are coming together for just such an unveil. Gruber highlights the fact that "everyone working on it has dropped off the map", something which last happened in the run up to the original iPhone's announcement back in early 2007; in fact, many of the people who have now gone into stealth mode are the same engineers and software teams responsible for the iPhone Mail, Calendar, and Safari apps.
Gruber describes it as a "cone of silence", and it's one that - despite talk of Apple discussing ebook and other deals with publishers - even content partners might be kept out of. Apparently Apple goes into such meetings without prototypes, mock-ups, designs or even verbal confirmation that such a product is in the works; instead, they merely ask if the would-be partner is interested in getting involved "if we were to create a new platform".
As for the potential functionality, Gruber reckons predictions of a Kindle rival, overgrown iPod touch or simply an HD media viewer all miss the point: the Apple iSlate (as we expect it to be called) will be all those and more. Apple may illustrate its purpose - set its context to potential buyers, as it were - by highlighting two or three key uses, just as they did with the iPhone, but the iSlate won't be limited to any such small subset.