The New York Times says the iTablet/iSlate/iPad (latest probably-fake pic above) will have 3G, iPhone apps, and help protect democracy!

It will run all the applications of the iPhone and iPod Touch, have a persistent wireless connection over 3G cellphone networks and Wi-Fi, and will be built with a 10-inch color display, allowing newspapers, magazines and book publishers to deliver their products with an eye to the design that had grabbed readers in print.

How does this factor into protecting democracy? Because of Steve Jobs, and perhaps because of why Jobs considers it his most important thing he's ever done:

“Steve believes in old media companies and wants them to do well,” said a person who has seen the device and is familiar with Apple’s marketing plan for it, but who did not want to be named because talking about it might alienate him from the company. “He believes democracy is hinged on a free press and that depends on there being a professional press.”

Free as in speech, not as in beer, because the viability of this media is prefaced on it being financial sound, which means -- paid content. No one buys the media cow if they get free milk from the web (or something like that):

The December issue of GQ was downloaded from the [iTunes] app store almost 7,000 times, and twice as many times for its January issue. Last week, The New York Times announced plans to begin charging, by next year, frequent Web site visitors who are not also newspaper subscribers to read the online version.

Yet some of the people already charging for content aren't yet on board. Who? You guessed it -- TV networks:

But perhaps smarting from their experiences with Apple, many of the old-line media companies — NBC Universal, Viacom and Discovery among them — shrugged at (or totally dismissed) Apple’s plans for a TV subscription package, according to executives briefed on the talks. A person briefed on Apple’s plans confirmed that such a subscription video option was not part of any immediate offering.

If their experience is getting people to pay $2 for stuff that's given away "for free" (from the consumer's perspective) via broadcast channels every night is "smarting", does this mean their alternative of choice is "dumbing"?

If so, print media is going all in, with TechCrunch reporting the tablet may come with a Barnes & Nobles book store, either as an App Store app like the iPhone, or even built in via partnership with Apple.

The two companies are thought to be working closely together, increasing the likelihood that Barnes & Noble will be part of the announcement on Wednesday. While Apple can run around cutting deals with the larger publishers, a built-in Barnes & Noble bookstore could include up to a million titles in one fell swoop, just like on B&N’s own Nook reader.

Only 1 day to go until Apple's "Come see our latest creation" event, and then the crazy rumors will finally stop -- and the crazy stories about people lining up outside the Apple Store in Times Square will start!