Apple Inc will host a special event on January 27 where it is widely expected to unveil its tablet computer, as the company looks to extend its hot hand into a brand new product category. The event next week is shaping up as Apple’s most eagerly anticipated product launch since the iPhone three years ago. The company has never acknowledged the existence of the tablet, but rumors and speculation have been building for months. Although few details about the tablet are known for certain, the device is said to resemble a large version of the iPhone, with a roughly 10-inch touchscreen. Analysts say such a device would try to bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops, allowing users to stream video, surf the Web and play games while on the go. Cost estimates on the tablet – which analysts expect to begin shipping in March or April – run upwards of USD 1,000. Tablet computers have never managed to catch on with consumers, and industry watchers say Apple will have to offer a compelling reason to buy such a device. If consumers do gravitate to the tablet, it could also propel Apple into the digital book market popularized by Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader, analysts say.