US publisher blows lid off Apple tablet secrecy

The chief executive of a major book publisher has singlehandedly said more about the Apple tablet device in two minutes than Apple has in two months as pre-launch hype reaches fever pitch.

Apple and chalk slate

With just hours to go before the widely expected launch of Apple's tablet-style device, the Cupertino slate has finally been made official of sorts thanks to some off-the-cuff public remarks by Terry McGraw, the chief executive of US publishing giant McGraw-Hill.

Apple has been almost obsessively quiet about divulging details of its tablet, even as far as giving us its name, but McGraw emphatically swept away the veil of secrecy in an interview on CNBC's financial programme Earnings Central, saying the tablet was very real, and was "just really terrific".

McGraw was being questioned about his company's deal with Apple to supply digital textbooks to the upcoming tablet, but ended up saying a lot more about the tablet itself than the deal.

"Yeah, its very exciting. Very exciting," he told presenter Erin Burnett. "We've been working with Apple for quite a while. The tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system, and so it'll be transferable.

"So what you're going to be able to do now we have a consortium of e-books, we have 95 per cent of all our materials that are in e-book formats. So now, with the tablet, you're going to open up the higher-education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific."

While e-book support on the Apple slate was seen practically as a given, its operating system was still a matter of debate, with many having insisted it would run a scaled-down version of Mac OS X despite an increasing weight of evidence (now conclusive) to the contrary.

The tablet itself is finally set to make its appearance at an Apple launch event in San Francisco today (starting at 6pm tonight UK time. Yet even at this late stage the alleged scoops, exclusives and rumours keep flooding in.

Among the more credible include a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that Apple is "locked in 11th-hour negotiations" with book publishers trying to set up a deal "that could rewrite the industry's revenue model".

The WSJ claims Apple aims to set itself up directly against online retail colossus Amazon, offering best-sellers at between $10 and $14 each, with 30 per cent of the price going to Apple and the rest to the publishers.

US television network Fox, meanwhile, is said to have already penned a deal for the tablet to find its way into sleep-deprived hero Jack Bauer's hands sometime during the current series of global hit 24 the tip-off having come via a couple of tweets from the show's director of photography, Rodney Charters.

IT PRO will be live blogging all the news from the Apple announcement this evening. Click here to sign up.

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