There is a lot of speculation today about an Apple tablet on the horizon, which is a product many of us have been predicting for quite some time now.  I’d say it is very likely we’ll see some sort of tablet device this quarter at highly incentivized prices (based on Apple’s earnings call the other night).

I’ve heard a lot of folks dismiss the “touchscreen” tablet as a real workable device based on how difficult it is to have the keyboard on the screen you are working in.  While that is true, let’s not forget that there are three very viable input options available to Apple

1)  With their acquisition of FingerWorks several years ago, Apple is in possession of some very significant IP for gesture based input devices.  I used my TouchStream keyboard for several years and it really did represent the next generation of input devices.  We’ve seen some of that IP in the iPhone, but there is a lot left on the table for future devices.  In addition to having the gesture input on the screen, I think we may see some sort of bluetooth based external keyboard building on the FingerWorks former line of keyboards.  These keyboards had incredibly small form factors to begin with and where a little larger than two stacked CD cases when folded up. Adding this as a workhorse input option for the desk environment would be key.

The TouchSteam keyboard is sitting on a detachable metal base in the picture below:

2)  Let’s not forget that as with the PC tablet environment, pen input with handwriting recognition is also a viable option.

3)  Voice input via bluetooth headset also provides an alternative input option to supplement the gesture environment.

I predict we’ll see a MacTablet device with the following features:

1) Gesture based input building on the Fingerworks IP

2) Wifi, Bluetooth and optional data-only 3G cellular connectivity.

3) Ability to run native Mac OS X apps.

4)  Quick start with the ability to run iPhone Apps.

5)  GPS, accelerometer and other iPhone technologies in the device.  Imagine your onscreen keyboard comes up when you have both wrists over the proximity sensors in the casing.

6)  eBook reading capability.  Despite the fact that Steve Jobs doesn’t think people read books, he could strike a nail in the coffin of the Kindle by introducing books to the Apple Media Store.

7)  Back to my Mac and full syncing via MobileMe to extend the desktop including access to your media for streaming ala the AppleTV.

Stay tuned…it is going to be an exciting quarter.