Apple is rushing to get its much-rumoured 'iTablet' device out in time for this coming Christmas, as well as introducing new interactive album features on iTunes in an effort to revitalise music sales.

According to reports in the Financial Times, Apple is working with the big four major labels to stimulate iTunes album sales by offering customers new 'added value' features such as interactive booklets, album sleeve notes and more.

The four majors - EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music Group – are working with Apple on a project codenamed "Cocktail", according to four unnamed sources close to the project.

Apple reportedly wants to recreate that "heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music," according to one executive familiar with the plans.

The real question of course is whether or not whatever 'added value' features Apple and the music labels offer will be enough to convince music fans to part with their credit card details - what with millions of albums already freely available to stream via services such as Spotify.com

Details on these new interactive music album offerings, as ever with a new Apple product, are currently scarce.

"It's not just a bunch of PDFs," one executive told the FT. "There's real engagement with the ancillary stuff.

Talkin' bout iRevolutions and eBooks

The FT also claims that Apple is "racing to offer a portable tablet-sized computer in time for the Christmas shopping season, in what the entertainment industry hopes will be a new revolution."

The 'iTablet' is set to be released alongside the aforementioned new content deals with the major music labels. It will arrive, according to the FT "probably without phone capability but with access to the web, and to Apple's online stores for software and entertainment."

"It's a portable entertainment device," said an unnamed entertainment exec "It's going to be fabulous for watching movies."

Apple is also looking to capitalise on the burgeoning market for eBooks, following recent launches of new eBook devices from the likes of Amazon, Sony and Plastic Logic.

One book publisher noted that Apple's device "would be a colour, flat-panel TV to the old-fashioned, black and white TV of the Kindle."

While Apple has apparently not directly briefed movie studios or game developers and publishers on the new device, the FT claims games devs could "quickly optimise existing games for a hardware display that shows off graphics-intensive content."

Analysts are pegging the price tag for the 'iTablet' at anything between $600 (£364) and $1,000 (£606).

Via The Financial Times