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Apple’s New Device Could Be a Tough Sell

Is the world going to go gaga for yet another Apple device?

Next week, Apple is expected to unveil a multimedia device that analysts speculate will be a cross between the Apple iPhone and the Amazon Kindle e-book reader. Blogs most often refer to the device as the "iSlate." And it is described by analysts as smaller than a laptop, bigger than a netbook and able to access Internet content from anywhere.

Apple won't comment, and it won't disclose exactly what it has in mind until Jan. 27, when it stages a press event to unveil the product in San Francisco. But technology analysts - who have not been briefed by Apple - envision it as a souped up e-Reader, the next-generation Kindle.

"If you took a Kindle and enriched it, what would you do?" asks Phil Leigh, an analyst at Inside Digital Media. "You'd put in color and Web browsing, and open it up to other forms of media. That's what Apple is going to do."

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, says Apple will be offering e-books from book publishers, magazines and newspapers, and movies and TV shows. It's also expected to introduce a form of music subscription, making use of Lala.com, the music discovery site it recently purchased.

With iTunes software, iPod and the iPhone, the company has amassed some 100 million iTunes accounts, says Munster, and will use iTunes to run the media on the new device. "It's Apple's secret weapon," he adds.

It will be a challenge for Apple to convince consumers they need an iSlate in their life, predicts Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies. For the iPhone, "There was a crying need for a great multimedia smartphone," he says. "I'm not so sure that exists for the iSlate."

Kay expects the device to sell for $800 to $1,000, an expensive purchase for a target audience of teen and young adult users.

"It's a rich price tag," he says.

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