Imagine there’s no iPad. It’s easy if you try.

Since my last Switched On column postulating that the rumored Apple tablet could be more of an Apple TV successor than an iPod touch with a glandular problem, I’ve heard some fantastic unpublished rumors about the device from a pretty credible source — at least one of which I believe. It’s easy to say that at $599 or more that the Apple tablet is a nonstarter but let’s remember that the iPod started at $399 and the iPhone launched at $599. But the Apple tablet could be… could be…

…just a rumor. Of it could well exist in prototype form and for whatever reason Apple could decide not to ship it. It’s happened before.

The CrunchPad, which I predicted could not be sold for $200 and has now seen its predicted price swell to netbook range, had received a lot of attention as an Apple tablet alternative, but if you’re primarily interested in surfing the Web and are willing to shell out that much, it may be worth looking into Always innovating’s Touch Book, which I’ve written about previously.

Its screen is smaller than the CrunchPad’s. But with its add-on keyboard, open source operating system, and unorthodox hardware, it’s the Chumby of netbooks, and I like its “convertible” approach more than those of Tablet PCs where the screen twists and folds over the keyboard, leaving a fat tablet. Since it must house a battery in its screen for independent tablet operation, the Touch Book’s lid is a bit thick as well, but I think it could be the stronger niche offering if its software can carry the day.

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