Apple needed music publishers to make the iPod a truly massive hit. Now Apple must work with its natural enemy — the press — to do the same for its forthcoming tablet. How painful.

Just witness the position Apple is in with the New York Times. After we pointed out that Times editor had casually mentioned "the impending Apple slate" at an off-the-record confab, the newspaper's editor clammed up. When Peter Kafka of All Things D Keller asked him to elaborate, he got a stern quote via PR: "I ain't sayin'" anything about Apple's rumored device. But the horse was already out of the barn. One can only imagine what sort of conversation Keller might have had with Apple's famously caustic CEO Steve Jobs after that slip.

It's a clash of cultures: Keller specializes in publishing information as quickly as possible; Jobs in keeping in secret, for long stretches of time. It's also an unavoidable situation for Apple. To get beautiful content to show off the capabilities of the tablet and its (presumed) sharp color display, Apple has been meeting with magazines, newspapers and book publishers, who have lots of glossy, high-resolution content. There's no way Apple executives would talking to these guys about a forthcoming device if it didn't feel they absolutely had to.

It must be a painful situation for Apple. At least the company has lots of practice in manipulating the media. Just not usually from such an uncomfortably close distance.