A day does not seem to pass without another story speculating on the "Apple Tablet" - a new multi-function device purportedly under development by Apple. The rumors swirl, in part, because Apple has so many fans who cannot wait to see what Jobs and company come up with next. The firm's history of secrecy naturally adds to the intrigue.
One can certainly argue that the rumors provide Apple with an incredible amount of free publicity in advance of a new product launch. While that does mean expectations are quite high, most firms would still die for such publicity.
Perhaps, though, another great benefit exists from this rumor mill. Maybe Apple has provided this extended period of time during which it can read about what customers would like from a new tablet-type device, as well as what early adopters and technology experts think should be incorporated into the product. In other words, perhaps this window of time represents an opportunity for something akin to mass collaboration, in which Apple is tapping into ideas, suggestions, and input from its legions of fans... and then using that to help drive the development process. No one knows for sure, but I cannot help but wonder whether Apple is watching all this speculation with great attentiveness and interest... and not just because it represents a bonanza of free pre-launch publicity.