You'd think that anything Apple unveils during its now confirmed media event later this month is pretty well known. If that's the case, I suppose there's no valid reason for any further coverage. All we need are the final product descriptions, the price and when orders will be accepted.
Of course, I'm being facetious here. It may indeed be a certainty that an Apple tablet is a large part of the bill of fare. Indeed, I am convinced Apple has already briefed a few members of the press with the essential details of their new product announcements. As you probably realize, some many already have the new gadget in their hands, preparing reviews that you'll read in the early days following availability.
Apple, you see, has one of the best marketing machines in the business, and you just know that media around the world will be paying really close attention to those announcements. Indeed, one of the 24 hour cable TV channels has already promised to have someone feeding life updates as the event progresses, very much in the fashion of an important government meeting. Imagine that!
So far, the early scuttlebutt has focused on some sort of tablet computer, likely with a 10-inch screen and probably sporting an enhanced version of the iPhone operating system. In fact, there may be a new version, 4.0, which will incorporate additional features to accommodate a larger device and perhaps extend other capabilities to existing iPhone and iPod touch owners.
What this will all cost depends on whom you ask and what makes sense from a sales point of view. At the high end, the so-called iSlate will cost $1,000, same as a MacBook. The question, of course, is whether that price point is the deal breaker, or required by the cost of building such a gadget. More to the point, how many of you would be willing to give up on a notebook and buy a tablet-based device instead? Will it fill the same purposes, or offer other capabilities that we really do not quite understand yet?
Contrast this tablet frenzy to the way the PC universe has handled such products over the years. In large part, Windows-based tablet computers are simply notebooks onto which a movable screen, with stylus input capability, has been grafted. The only operating system changes of note are the ones needed to accommodate a touch-based system. Period. No wonder few care, and tablets have been largely consigned to vertical markets, such as medical offices, where it makes sense to carry around small computers to consult and store patient information. Obviously Apple wouldn't bet a huge amount of their resources on such a product without having a vision of something quite different and far more compelling.
At the same time, there are reports that Apple has been negotiating with major publishers to deliver content on the iSlate. But spending near the price of a notebook on a glorified ebook reader doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That capability might only be a small part of the overall focus on delivering a wide range of digital content to consume. When you add music, video and perhaps 3G connectivity, including mobile phone service, lots of fascinating possibilities may come into play.
Some are suggesting that the tablet-based operating system will also incorporate more visible elements of the desktop version of Mac OS X. That means being able to run many standard Mac applications, and a few of the guests on the tech radio show have suggested a hybrid OS, perhaps with capabilities that will later be added to Snow Leopard's successor.
In recent days, has also been talk about an iLife '10, a major upgrade that will integrate Macs and mobile devices in Apple's typically elegant and seamless fashion. But what about iWork '10? Will there be a version that sports Multi-Touch capabilities? What about other potential product introductions, such as a refreshed notebook lineup? No, probably not, because even the recent iMac upgrade, a pretty major one in fact, merited no more than a press release.
In any case, how do the existing wireless carriers fit in with this new product? If there's 3G support, would you get a big discount if you bought your iSlate along with a data plan? If that's the case, rather than pay $900 or $1,000, maybe the price will be closer to $700, which is still a fairly large number for a product that has existed in a special-purpose category up till now.
Certainly, the pros and cons of Apple's end game have been fodder for lots of media attention, and I've probably done little more than contribute to the confusion. Of course, we're all playing into Apple's hands here. No matter what comes out of that special media event, the mere fact that the media frenzy won't abate may be sufficient to make the new product, whatever it happens to be, a big success right out of the starting gate. And that is precisely what all this is about as far as Apple is concerned.
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