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Mac Rumor Alert: What Apple's "iTablet" could mean for Asia

Here's the latest chatter about the supply chain of the coming Apple gadget — if it really exists.

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs walks through the crowd after a special event in San Francisco Sept. 9, 2009. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Here comes, maybe, Apple's "iTablet." Or "iSlate." Or "iWhatever."

Apple's so-called "Jesus Tablet" has been described as the ultimate gadget: A netbook, e-book reader, movie player and games platform all in one. It's going to revolutionize publishing, and education. No mention yet on solving Middle East peace, but surely it's only a matter of time.

Now, Apple fans are in a frenzy over a press event Wednesday at which the tablet may finally — maybe — be revealed to all. And yes, all the jokes about Moses bringing the tablet down from the mountain have already been made.

GlobalPost doesn't have any solid information to add since our last dispatch on this topic, nearly a year ago. But here in Asia, where many of Apple's mos popular products are manufactured, there's been plenty of unconfirmed hearsay.

Apple doesn't comment on its suppliers, as a rule. Calls to reported suppliers for the wonder gadget got the usual litany of "no comments" and a few chuckles that we even asked.

"Apple's a very special customer, so their information control is very, very strict," said one spokesperson, who didn't even want to be named saying,"If we address any question it could be very embarrassing."

"It's highly confidential," said another spokesperson, before rushing to add, "If we really have this plan."

Why the Manhattan Project-like secrecy? Here's how tech consultant Tracy Tsai of Gartner explains it: "Apple treats confidentiality as so important, so any release of information could jeopardize business relations between suppliers and Apple."

Still, there are plenty of rumors about the supply chain from industry analysts, several of whom also did not want to be named.

If the tablet's for real, Taiwanese companies will be key contractors, as with other Apple products like the iPhone. Herewith, a roundup of the chatter.

ASSEMBLY

One of the single biggest winners from Apple's tablet hype could be Hon Hai, also known by its trade name Foxconn. Headed by celebrity billionaire Terry Gou, it's the world's largest electronics contractor and a longtime Apple partner.

Analysts say Hon Hai will likely be tapped for most of the final assembly of the tablet. Such assembly is typically done at its factories in China. Hon Hai declined comment.

It's possible that other Taiwan contractors Inventec or Quanta could get some assembly orders too — Apple likes to diversify and play off suppliers against each other to get the cheapest prices, say analysts.

TOUCH SCREENS

This is the key component, according to analysts, and one of the most expensive. Apple's tablet is rumored to feature a 10-inch touch screen that's a larger version of what's used in the iPhone or iPod Touch.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-and-its-neighbors/100126/apple-itablet-asia