The Apple tablet is threatening to approach Yeti status, but here's an indication that it will turn out to be real: the company has told some of its key developers to prepare versions of their iPhone apps that will work on a device with a larger screen, in time for an event next month.
Add that to the news that Apple has reportedly booked the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco "for several days in late January," according to the Financial Times, and it's pretty easy to connect the dots. It's a very good bet we're getting a look at this thing within the next 30 days or so.
A mobile industry source tells me developers have been told that the mystery device will be shown off at the event only, but won't be ready to ship (Dan Frommer at Alley Insider relays the same news).
Announcing a product before launch used to be unusual for Apple, but it's a pattern the company has practiced more recently, notably with the first iPhone. And if Apple is indeed coming out with a new product that will require developers to rethink their approach, it makes a lot of sense.
I've asked Apple for comment, but I'm not holding my breath.
My source says Apple's instructions to developers indicate that the tablet--or at least the thing it's showing off next month--will be based on the iPhone OS and will rely on the same iTunes Store that has moved 2 billion apps in a couple of years.
If so, it will mean that some people who have been guessing at what Apple is planning may need to go back to the drawing board.
Magazine publisher Conde Nast, for instance, has been working on a digitized version of Wired magazine that would run on Adobe software. But the iPhone's OS doesn't work with Adobe's Flash platform, and if that holds true here, Conde Nast (and Adobe) is going to have to think of something else. Same goes for many Web video distributors who rely on Flash.
But first things first. Let's take a look at this thing, whatever it is, and see what it actually can and can't do before we get too far ahead of ourselves.