For something that doesn't officially exist yet, the Apple iTablet is generating an awful lot of coverage - but this time there appears to be fire inside all the smoke.

After years of rumours it seems that the Apple iTablet will break cover in a matter of days.

So what do we really know about the most anticipated bit of technology since the USB lava lamp? Come with us as we filter the River of Rumour for the Shiny Nuggets of Truth.

1. The Apple Tablet is called the Apple iSlate

Apple definitely bought the domain name iSlate.com two years ago, and the Apple iSlate may run software called iGuide. Then again, Boy Genius Report reckons that the final name will be iTablet - but many people prefer iBook. As Apple doesn't make iBooks any more, the name would be perfect for an ebook-media-internet-thingummy.

2. The Apple iSlate release date is in March, or April, or maybe later than that

The Apple iSlate release date appears to be rather cloudy: while everyone agrees that the iSlate will finally be unveiled this month, it won't ship until March, or maybe April, or maybe later than that. As for a first look at the Apple iSlate - there's an Apple event on 27 January where it's expected that Steve Jobs will show off the tablet.

3. The Apple iSlate will be an ebook reader

The iGuide's trademark description specifically mentions books, magazines, newsletters and journals, so the Apple iSlate will be pitched at least partly as an ebook reader.

According to Silicon Alley Insider Apple has already approached key iPhone developers and asked them to scale their apps for a bigger screen, and if that's true then the Apple iSlate will be running a variant of the iPhone OS complete with App Store.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that Apple could revolutionise books and other "old media" content in much the same way as it did with music. The paper suggests Apple has already entered into discussions with content owners such as HarperCollins, Conde Nast and News Corp.

4. The Apple iSlate will have 3G and Wi-Fi, or maybe just Wi-Fi

Depending on how you interpret the responses in a recent interview given by Orange France's Stephane Richard there will be a 3G Apple iSlate with an integrated webcam. If there is a 3G version we'd expect a Wi-Fi-only version, too, in much the same way that the iPod is an iPhone without the phone bit.

Then again, Orange says Richard's remarks were taken out of context and mistranslated, and Steve Jobs has had him shot.

Maybe it's just the webcam bit that Richard got wrong, though. The Guardian reports that Apple has been talking to UK mobile operators to find a network partner for its tablet.

5. The Apple iSlate will have a virtual keyboard and maybe 3D

So what user interface will the Apple iSlate have? MacRumors' discovery of an old Fingerworks press release - yes, the same Apple-owned Fingerworks whose site Apple mysteriously shuttered mere moments ago - describes a virtual keyboard "that serves as mouse, standard keyboard, and powerful multi-finger gesture interpreter".

This suggests that the user interface will be a cross between an iPhone and a Macbook's trackpad. The New York Times quotes a former Apple designer who claims the firm has created a multi-touch version of iWork.

Apple has also patented a 3D user interface that may or may not end up in the tablet. Whether it's 3D or 2D, the New York Times says "you will be very surprised how you interact with the new tablet."

6. The Apple iSlate will be a gaming machine

Apple has invited leading videogame journalists to its 27 January event in the US, with Kotaku reporting that it has received its invite to the launch. "We have been anticipating a major move from Apple in the games market for some time," said CVG editor Tim Ingham. "This could well be it."

7. The Apple iSlate will be 10 inches

How big will it be? For months we've heard that the size of the Apple iSlate would be seven inches or nine inches, but somebody close to Apple has deliberately leaked key details to the Wall Street Journal including a "10 to 11-inch touchscreen".

We'd certainly trust the WSJ ahead of Phonearena.com, which claims to have a leaked Apple spec sheet detailing a 7.1" tablet running "clouded Leopard". Hmmm.

As we put it in December, "we're looking at a device that is essentially a super-sized iPod touch".

Apple tablet

GROWING UP: "A super-sized iPod touch" is exactly what the Apple iSlate is likely to be. Are you excited yet?

8. The Apple iSlate used to be seven inches

It's possible that the smaller sizes were Apple iSlate prototypes, as an anonymous designer has told TG Daily that it's almost impossible to get hold of 10.1" LCD or OLED screens from any Asian manufacturer as Apple's bought the lot. LCD and OLED suggests either multiple models or a twin-screen Apple iSlate, with the former much more likely than the latter.

It's likely that TG Daily has been misinformed, however: Ars Technica spoke to the OLED Association and discovered that "there's no real production of 10.1-inch panels" for anyone to hoard.

9. The Apple iSlate will cost around $1,000 and sell squillions

The WSJ says that the Apple iSlate will cost around $1,000, which sounds about right: that's one and a bit iPhone 3GSes. Even at that price, Reuters reckons it's going to sell shedloads.

If the Guardian is correct, mobile phone firms may subsidise that price - although of course that means committing to a two-year contract when it's entirely possible the second generation tablet will ship next summer.

Ultimately, though, there's only one thing you need to know about the tablet: Steve Jobs is "extremely happy" with it. If it's good enough for Jobs, we're sure it's good enough for us.

10. It's "the most amazing device ever"

So says Jason Calacanis, web entrepreneur, CEO and the man who is about to be struck off of Steve Jobs' Christmas card list. On his Twitter page, he may well have sprung the biggest leak Apple has had since, well, never.

Calacanis says he has the device and it can be used as a: gaming device (Farmville on it is sick!), e-reader and has back and front cameras so you can have uber-cool video conferences.

Is he right? Only time (and there's mere hours left) will tell.

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Liked this? Then check out 5 most likely Apple products of 2010

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