The more you think about it, the more obvious it is that an Apple tablet would specialize in reviving dead-tree media (i.e., newspapers, magazines and books). All the rumors suggest the device would be a larger iPod Touch/iPhone with a 10-inch screen. Previously Wired.com argued that redefining print would would be a logical purpose for a gadget this size, and Gizmodo today has even more details to prove that this is Apple's goal with the tablet.
Gizmodo's Brian Lam cites two people related to The New York Times, who claim Apple approached them to talk about repurposing the newspaper onto a new device. Lam notes that Jobs has called the Times the best newspaper in the world in past keynotes. (I recall him saying that when introducing the iPhone's web browser at Macworld Expo 2007.)
Lam proceeds to cite a vice president in textbook publishing who claims publishers McGraw-Hill and Oberlin Press are collaborating with Apple to move textbooks to the iTunes Store. The possible distribution model would involve a DRM'ed one-time-use book, which could spell out to lots of money for publishers while reducing pricing of e-books for consumers.
Lastly, Lam claims several executives from magazines met at Apple's Cupertino campus to demonstrate their ideas on the future of publishing, where they presented mockups of magazines in interactive form.
Those are all strong data points, and we agree with the overall argument. Wired.com in July speculated that an Apple tablet, in addition to an e-book section in iTunes, would be a killer combination to compete against Amazon's Kindle and e-book store. We suggested an à-la-carte purchase model for textbooks so students could download single chapters as opposed to purchasing entire books. The suggestion from Lam's sources about a DRM'ed one-time-use book would probably be a more attractive model for publishers.
Meanwhile, Amazon recently launched a pilot program with some universities to determine how to sell Kindle-compatible textbooks in the Amazon.com e-book store. It doesn't appear to be going well: Princeton students are complaining the Kindle DX is disappointing and difficult to use, according to a Fox News report. We're not surprised: In May, Wired.com polled students on their impression of the Kindle DX as a replacement for textbooks, and most of them dismissed the idea. Apple has a clear opportunity to seize the e-publishing market, and it appears the company has that precisely in mind.