Surprise us this week, Apple

Apple_logo Every September for the past several years, Apple has used this month to refresh the iPod line. This year is no different, as in two days they will hold their "rock and roll" event, with most people expecting a new camera-equipped iPod nano and iPod touch.

Of course, there have been the rampant rumors about an iTablet device, basically a larger version of the touch, for what seems like forever now. Based on the excitement seen all over the web, the time seems right for Apple to jump in and revolutionize the tablet market that has never quite taken off for mainstream consumers, much like they did with the smartphone market over two years ago.

I am being realistic and I really don't expect an iTablet from Apple for at least another 8-12 months, but I would love to be wrong. Even if September 9th just ends up being an iPod refresh like expected, at least it will include the touch, which is the most widely available and widely used MID on the market.

Yes, I called the iPod touch a MID because that is what it's continually evolving into. The iPod moniker doesn't seem to fit anymore, and the DAP functions even seem to take a back seat to the App Store and Mobile Safari. Add in the aforementioned camera for picture and video sharing, a possible upgrade to 64GB, and the expected ARM Cortex processor upgrade, and the iPod touch will be one the highest-spec'd non-Intel MIDs out there. If Apple can finally add a built-in microphone, then this thing will be the only device that many people need while on the go if using VoIP for phone calls.

Of course, there are still some limitations to what the iPod touch can do compared to a more traditional Windows or Linux-based MID or UMPC, but that is where the iTablet could fill the void and raise the bar for everyone. With a capacitive touchscreen, an honest-to-goodness usable on-screen keyboard could finally become a reality. Whether it runs a version of the iPhone OS or a more desktop-like version of OS X, the possibilities are endless if Apple can get the hardware right.

Companies like Viliv are trying their hardest to get established in the tablet market, but they could become quickly overshadowed by a huge Apple announcement. If anyone doubts how quickly a company's fortunes can change, there is no need to look further than Nokia, who is finally releasing their long-awaited N900 while trying to play catch up in the smartphone/MID marketplace.

So who else is hoping for a big surprise on Wednesday? I know many people loathe Apple and would rather use any other brand than appear to be a conformist, but an iTablet would be a huge development for the handheld tablet market. Even if we have to wait a bit longer, it is now apparent more than ever that the wait is getting shorter and shorter.

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Chris King

Chris King is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.