Apple Tablet Rumor Looms Large Over CES

But that chatter was just wishful thinking. Apple continued to keep CES at arm's length. And now, with rumors of a new Apple tablet picking up steam before the holidays, Jobs and Company are poised to upstage CES once again.

The New York Times recently reported that Jobs was "extremely pleased" with the rumored product, and a tablet-like device of some kind seems at this point to be a foregone conclusion.

Will the Apple tablet be born with the same fanfare as the iPhone? Back in 2007, the introduction of Apple's highly-anticipated smartphone stole whatever thunder CES had hoped to secure. Macworld quickly became the center of the IT universe that winter, and most of the products and news that trickled out of Las Vegas went out with a whimper instead of a bang.

Now history seems ready to repeat itself. Apple has reportedly scheduled a major media event next month, where it's widely expected the company will unveil its new tablet model. According to The Financial Times, Apple has booked the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for several days at the end of January and has scheduled an important product announcement for January 26.

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While the dates don't overlap like they did in 2007 (CES runs Jan. 7-10), it's clear that all eyes will be watching for leaked Apple tablet images or specifications as the weeks go by. And if Apple's big product announcement will truly be a new tablet, it will no doubt overshadow the number of tablet PCs and smaller mobile devices scheduled to be unveiled at CES.

One of the more compelling rumors leading up to CES, For example, surrounds the possibility of Dell launching a new tablet PC powered by Google's Android operating system. Then there are other products like Asus' nifty Eee PC T101MT netbook, which can reportedly convert into a small tablet, and Notion Ink's sleek 10.1 inch tablet, also running Android.

These products could become casualties of Apple's media black hole next month, depending whether the mystery device is, in fact, a tablet and how and when the announcement is made. But assuming it is an Apple tablet, could the buzz actually help Dell and other tablet makers with a positive "trickle down" effect? Perhaps. But if history is any lesson, then prepare for Apple to swallow CES " and all of its tablets " whole.