Apple iSlate - and so it begins

Around about 50 minutes ago, an email plopped into my inbox. One of those emails that only comes once or twice a year:From: Apple Media EventsSubject:

From: Apple Media Events

Subject: Please Join Apple on January 27 for a Special Event

After years of rumour mongering and months of increasingly believable speculation, suddenly some solid fact: Apple WILL be unveiling a new product in San Francisco on January 27th. And it would suffer a share price catastrophe if the event was for anything less than a tablet computer. Right?

Question: do I Tweet now or waste valuable milliseconds opening the email? I open the email. Here's what I see:

Enough. "Our latest creation." It has to be a tablet, right? I fire up Tweetie and let the world know. I type so fast that I misspell 'event'. Oh dear.

But hey, it's out there. @louisedoherty asks for proof. I upload a screenshot. And then I scour the invite for clues. But there's nothing but logistics - it's at the Yerba Buena Center, just behind the Moscone Center that will house the Macworld show two weeks later. (Poor Macworld - Apple pulled out this year, and yet here it is putting on a special event in the same location, attracting media from around the world just a little too early for anyone to stay on to cover the show.)

But there's the picture. Those paint splats. What does it mean? Can you paint with a tablet? Not unless:

a) it has a pressure-senstive display or

b) you dip the tablet in a pot of paint and hurl it at a canvas.

Hmmm. Maybe it's more lateral. The Yerba Buena is directly opposite the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Maybe this 'latest creation' is a work of art. Yes, that could be it: maybe it's colourful splats of paint because it's the first colour eReader device, with a vibrant OLED screen. Maybe it's a work of art because it's outrageously expensive. Well, it is Apple, so that would seem to fit.

Or maybe Apple's retreating to its hippy roots. As @andylim tweeted, "Everyone knows that Yerba Buena means good grass, right. And that invitation looks a bit trippy. Just sayin."

The truth is, we're not really any more fact-laden than we were an hour ago. Apple's going to launch something new. You're probably going to want one. But any more than that - well, we'll just have to wait until the 27th.

In the meantime, I need to convince my publisher to fly me to San Fran. And maybe I should stay for Macworld too?

Stay tuned.

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