Apple’s iSlate is a marketing masterstroke: before its launched

There is a frenzy of speculation and anticipation ahead of this Wednesday's big Apple launch, when Steve Jobs is expected to unveil the iSlate, a "tablet" computer. Think a big iPod Touch that you can use to watch videos, read ebooks, do email etc.

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A search on google throws up almost 6million results. This is before the bloody thing is even launched. The Times today calls it the "Jesus Tablet", as it is hoped to be the saviour of the newspaper and book industries, persuading us to buy sexier eBooks and digital magazines. In addition to the thousands of tech and gadget sites guessing what it will be like, there's even a dedicated site for rumours,

Here's what Apple do so well with these sorts of launches:

1. Build brilliant products: all this buzz and excitement comes from Apple's track record in creating amazing products like the iPod and iPhone. The Times predicts that "It is likely to leave first-time users with that sense of open-mouthed
awe at technology that combines cleverness with simplicity, that sense
of being a South Sea islander seeing a mirror for the first time"

2. Total secrecy: all the news and gossip so far is speculation. Apple go to extreme measures to keep new products secret. The Times reports that "Software engineers disappear off the map while they develop the product. Employees in the
most critical product-testing rooms must cover up devices with black cloaks
when they are working on them".

One website, Valleywag, was so desperate for pictures of the iSlate that it offered $10,000 for photos of the device. They said “We’ve had enough of trying to follow all the speculation. We want answers, dammit! And we’re willing to pay.” Apple's lawyers promply sued Valleywag, creating even more PR coverage.

3. Pre-launch partnerships: Apple are following the successful profit-sharing model that worked so well with the app store. They are striking deals with publishers, offering them the majority of the revenue stream. Apple win by having great content that makes their device a must-have, and by getting a new source of income from selling content that it costs them nothing to create.

I for one am looking forward to the launch. It'll be good to see Steve Jobs back in action after his absence caused by illness. And my guess is the iSlate will be the must-have gadget of 2010.