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Apple reportedly at work on Kindle-killer and LP-saver

For some time now, rumors have been percolating that Apple is working on a new device--best-described as a laptop-sized iPod Touch--to compete in both in the netbook and tablet PC markets. Over the past 48 hours, those rumors have reached critical mass, as leaks out of Cupertino seem to indicate that the device will be ready to go this fall, in time for Christmas. And Apple has also reportedly been hard at work on some new applications to make the as-yet-unnamed computer more desirable. Among them: an e-reader that could pose a serious threat to the Kindle (since the new app will offer color, have the backing of iTunes, and might be able to access a cellular network for instant downloads just as the Kindle does), and new "digital album" bundles that will allow people who download them to access lyrics, liner notes, video and other bonus material while they listen. Whether Apple's new tablet will really be a "Kindle-killer" remains to be seen; Kindles will likely still have a much longer battery life and the non-eye-straining "e-ink" as key selling points for people who just want to grab books on the go and read. But the digital album concept is intriguing, especially since it's designed to stimulate music sales by moving consumers away from the one-track-a-time a la carte model that record labels have begun to decry. Is it too late to change the habit of a population that's grown used to shuffling? And does anyone have any money left to buy Apple's latest toy?

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