The unnamed analyst told Barron's that he had seen a prototype of the device, and believes it will be available in November following an official September launch. The source said that the wider computer industry had slowed production on their own touch-screen tablet devices to see what kind of gadget Apple produced. Such is Apple's reputation as a trendsetter, that other companies are keen to see how Apple implements the technology before proceeding with their own devices. "It's close enough now to a final design that in Asia, there's no other product in the waiting room or in the bullpen," said the analyst. "There are dozens of [original device makers] making products for Lenovo and other PC makers that are all waiting to see what the Apple product is."
The touch-screen tablet, dubbed the MacBook touch by Apple fans, is expected to have a 10in touch-screen and be similar in look and feel to a large iPod touch. Experts expect it to cost around $800 (£500), and to be positioned as a home media hub, capable of streaming content and services in much the same way as Apple TV does, and doubling as a games console. Although Apple has refused to comment on the rumour and speculation surrounding the launch of a possible touch-screen tablet, it has hinted that it is exploring new product lines. Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said on a recent earnings call that Apple was working on something "very innovative". Steve Jobs, co-founder and chief executive of Apple, is said to have been the driving force behind the tablet, despite a recent leave of absence from the company due to ill-health. Analysts believe the machine could even compete directly with Amazon's Kindle ebook reader by allowing users to download books, music and movies directly to the device over the Wi-Fi network. Apple is also said to be working on a new music initiative, code-named Cocktail, that will see all four major record labels – EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal – offer interactive booklets, sleeve notes, exclusive cover art and other digital assets with songs and albums purchased through Apple's iTunes Music Store. ( www.telegraph.co.uk )