A flood of rumors point to a Jan. 26 unveiling of Apple’s new touch-screen device

From an Apple patent. Source: NYT

Apple AAPL is a company that leaks with a purpose, and for Christmas it has loosened its normally tight-lipped public relations operation and delivered a heap of neatly wrapped rumors. The best it saved for the New York TimesBits blog.

  • Steve is happy. The Times‘ Nick Bilton reports that when one of his colleagues asked a senior Apple employee if the tablet rumors were true, the response was: “I can’t really say anything, but, let’s just say Steve is extremely happy with the new tablet.”
  • Mini tablet. Much of the technology in tablet designs that Jobs had previously rejected ended up in the iPhone, a former Apple employee told the Times. “If you have an iPhone,” writes Bilton, “you’re carrying around a mini version of an early Apple tablet.”
  • Surprise. Finally, someone who recently left Apple (perhaps the same former employee) told Bilton “You will be very surprised how you interact with the new tablet.” (See AppleInsider for what that might entail.)
  • Save the date. The Financial Times reports that Apple has rented the big stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for a major product announcement on Jan. 26. Source: “people familiar with the plans.”
  • Demo apps. Silicon Alley Insider‘s Dan Frommer reports that some developers have been told by Apple to prepare apps for onstage demonstration. “They’ve told select developers that as long as they build their apps to support full screen resolution — rather than a fixed 320×480 — their apps should run just fine,” his source says.
  • March delivery. Based on a conversation this week with a Taiwanese supplier, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster expects the device to go on sale before the end of March. See here.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]