Apple expected to unveil tablet on 27 January

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Apple has confirmed a product launch event for 27 January, tantalising a selection of journalists and analysts with the invitation to "come see our latest creation".

There's still no official word on what exactly that creation is Apple is notorious for keeping its collective mouth shut right up to the very last minute but there's little doubt that we're finally about to see the launch of its much-vaunted tablet.

The event is scheduled for Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts Theatre in San Francisco for next Wednesday at 10am local time that's 6pm here in the UK and Apple fans around the world will be waiting with baited breath to see just what the Cupertino-based firm has up its sleeve.

While even the existence of Apple's tablet has yet to be officially confirmed, rumours and half-truths have reached such a critical mass that it would be a major surprise not to see it breaking cover next week. What it will be called, however, still remains a mystery, with the two leading contenders being iSlate and iTablet.

Given that Apple events typically see a series of product releases and updates being rolled out together in the lead-up to the headline announcement, speculation has also been rife as to what else Apple chief executive Steve Jobs will unveil on the day.

A safe bet will be the latest 2010 update to its iLife suite of media-management tools, with last year's announcement having come a year ago at the Macworld Expo a show Apple itself no longer attends.

Other rumours suggest a touchscreen iMac could be incoming, but while it seems all but certain that Apple is working on one, it may be too soon for an official announcement just yet.

It's also unlikely that there will be any iPhone-related hardware news either. Major iPhone product news has traditionally come in the summer, and any iPhone-centred news is only likely to detract attention from the main event.

And after stage-managing expectation and anticipation as only Apple can, it's unlikely to dilute it on the day by drawing attention from its touchscreen tablet.

As far back as September, rumours started to suggest a January launch date for the device, while further stories specifically naming the San Francisco venue emerged on Christmas Eve, though the date was mooted as January 26th, one day earlier than the reality.

In further Apple tablet-related news emerging today, the Wall Street Journal is quoting unnamed sources as saying Apple is talking to publisher HarperCollins to make its electronic books available to a "forthcoming" Apple product line.

The implication here is that the Apple tablet could double as an e-book reader, which is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility given the similar form factors of the respective devices.