Report: Apple's Game-Playing Tablet Unveils This Month, Ships March

Apple is set to unveil its take on the tablet computer, the touchscreen bigger brother to the iPhone rumored to be branded the iSlate, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal's report cites "people briefed by the company" who say the multimedia device will "let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Internet and read electronic books and newspapers." That long-rumored, now apparently impending device is reported to be finally revealed on January 27 and ship as early as March, according to the WSJ.

Obviously, we're somewhat interested in the game-playing capabilities of such a device, given the popularity of Apple's App Store, currently bursting with games—admittedly of wildly varying quality—and the desire to acquire shiny new things with touchscreens and Apple branding.

Will the Slate—or iSlate, which I do not prefer—simply be a bigger iPhone, only bigger and of larger size? Will games and applications designed for the 3.5" screen of the iPhone work on the Slate? If so, how will 480-by-320-pixel resolution games look on the rumored 10" screen? Probably not very good.

But speculation that the Slate is simply an iPhone given the XL treatment probably aren't accurate. It has to do more—well, maybe with the exception of making phone calls. As Apple subject matter expert John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes, Apple's tablet likely falls somewhere in between the iPhone and MacBook lines, designed and marketed as a potential third pillar. Or a viable alternative for the MacBook.

"Like all Apple products," Gruber writes. "The Tablet will do less than we expect but the things it does do, it will do insanely well. It will offer a fraction of the functionality of a MacBook - but that fraction will be way more fun."

As far as the Slate's gaming capabilities, it may sit somewhere in the middle, capable of playing anything you'd find on an iPhone (or iPod Touch), but maybe not as powerful a gaming device as a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

And what of the meager library of Mac OS native PC games? Can it at the very least play a capable game of World of Warcraft? A completely non-competitive game of StarCraft II? The device is likely to support an on-screen keyboard and multi-touch gestures, making more complex, more traditionally controlled games a possibility. How awkward would it be?

What the Slate is almost guaranteed to have is at least one id Software port. Expect Doom in some form. Maybe a few PopCap games, specifically tailored for the device. And probably some good interactive fiction players. Homebrew emulators. And it may be a much better multiplayer portable device—it could be great for board games on-the-go—given its larger touchscreen.

It's actually starting to sound like we already need it.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the device—our cohorts at Gizmodo have been on the thing like white on rice—which analysts are pegging in the $800 to $1000 USD range, when it launches this year.

Apple to Ship Tablet Device in March [Wall Street Journal]