When analysts predict Apple’s plans, I’m instantly, incorrigibly skeptical. With that in mind, I’m regarding Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster’s theory that Apple will release a tablet device next year for $500-$700 as just that: a theory. Munster pieced together his prediction based on multiple pieces of interesting evidence, ranging from rumors coming out of Asian component supplies to Apple’s acquisition of chip company PA Semi to the company’s portfolio of multi-touch patents. I don’t think anyone on the planet has a decent record of assembling reliable predictions based on these types of hints.
On the grand scale, I think some of the clues that Munster is looking at mean something: If the next few years pass without Apple releasing devices that bridge the gap between an iPhone and a MacBook, I’d be shocked. I also assume that the iPhone OS, or its descendants, will power larger, more powerful devices than the iPhone or iPod Touch–and that it’s the form of OS X that’ll be around even after Apple no longer makes any devices that look much like today’s Macs. (Note: I don’t mean to suggest that Macs are going away any time soon.)
One other thing about Munster and his Apple predictions: He recently said that he thinks that there will be no new iPhones at Apple’s WWDC keynote on June 6th, but that Steve Jobs will return from his medical leave to headline a new-iPhone press event in late June. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, a new iPhone will likely have new hardware features that Apple will have to explain to third-party developers, so you’d think the company would want to unveil said new phone at WWDC.