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Analyst: Apple Prepping February Tablet Production Ramp Ahead of March or April Release

MarketWatch reports on a new research note from Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Yair Reiner predicting, based on industry checks, that Apple will begin mass production of its much-rumored tablet computer in February ahead of a launch in late March or April.

The report claims that the device will include a 10.1" multi-touch LCD screen, specifically countering a recent rumor that the device's launch would be delayed to the second half of next year and would include a model sporting an OLED screen.

Another claim included in the report is that Apple has begun contacting book publishers about distributing their books through Apple for consumption on the new device. Apple is reportedly proposing a similar business model to its App Store, where Apple would retain 30% of each download's sale price with 70% going to the publishers. This model is seen to be a significantly more attractive deal to publishers than that offered by Amazon for its Kindle Store, where sales are split 50-50 between Amazon and the publishers.

Book publishers may not be the only ones looking to get on board with Apple's tablet launch, as a coalition of magazine publishers just yesterday launched a joint venture to develop standards and business models for digital distribution of their content. Magazine publishers have also been designing prototypes of how their content might be presented on tablet devices.

Reiner estimates that Apple may sell 1-1.5 million tablets per quarter at an estimated price of $1,000, contributing $0.22-$0.38 of profit to Apple's quarterly per-share earnings based on a margin of 22%.