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Apple may have delayed the release of the tablet computer, according to a number of sources, because of component selection. Inevitably this has led to a number of reports that it's not going to happen after all; one website in particular believes the whole thing was a result of our overwrought imagination in Apple user-land.

I'm not so sure, but I do believe in the delays (if you can 'delay' a product to which you haven't attached a date). Apple made an astonishing amount of noise with the iPod when there were already music players out there, and it still owns most of the market. It did the same with the iPhone which most emphatically isn't the first music phone.

I have no doubt the company thinks it's about time to launch another category-killer, and a tablet - something HP and others are already more or less making - to demolish the e-reader-only market, zap a few portable DVD players and generally outsell every personal entertainment and business-lite device out there, would be seen as an excellent idea.

Two things have to be right, though. The price is one, and if - as reports suggest - that's increasing rather than shrinking as launch time approaches - then it's not yet ready for the market. The second, closely related, is the economy. People simply aren't going to buy an optional 'nice-to-have' when they're concerned about mortages and similar considerations.

For those reasons I believe Apple is indeed developing a tablet. I'd be surprised if there isn't a working prototype somewhere. But depending on how component supplies and the larger economy shape up, early 2010 is unlikely to be the optimum time to launch it - if 2010 is the right time at all.

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