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  • Be Careful What You Believe About Apple!

    July 27th, 2009

    So Apple is supposed to come out with a tablet computer, possibly called the iTablet. Is that true? Well, if you believe some published reports that stretch back for months, it is, but the precise form of the new product depends on whom you ask.

    Now understand that Apple seldom discusses unreleased products. There are rare exceptions, such as a forthcoming operating system upgrade, such as Snow Leopard, or even a new gadget that will be released a few weeks hence. In rare circumstances, that new gadget may be preannounced months ahead of time, such as the original iPhone at the Macworld Expo in January 2007. Has it been that long ago? It didn’t go on sale for approximately six months, which gave the naysaying pundits plenty of opportunity to rag on the product.

    More recently, Apple has continued to blow cold water on the prospects for an Apple branded netbook. The official mantra is that these tiny variants of the traditional note-book computer are pieces of junk. They have squished keyboards, tiny screens, poor performance and there’s plenty of buyer’s remorse. Since Apple doesn’t build junk, don’t expect them to consider entering that sandbox.

    Except, of course, that they do have some interesting ideas should they actually decide some sort of netbook form factor is their cup of tea. That, of course, takes us to the so-called Apple tablet, the variation on the theme that will supposedly take the market by storm.

    Now understand that tablet computers, a favorite of former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, simply never took off as mainstream computers. There are vertical market applications, though. Our family doctor, for example, uses Fijitsu tablet-based note-books in his office to keep tabs on a patient’s medical records and ongoing treatment. When you need a prescription refill, he simply enters the information with a stylus on his handy note-book and it’s emailed right to your chosen pharmacy. Or, if that pharmacy doesn’t process prescriptions in that fashion, to the office printer instead. Well, at least it looks fancy and all, and is probably a great addition to a physician’s practice. But a mass market product? No.

    Supposedly the pressure on Apple to do something in a smaller form factor is caused by the fact that millions of netbooks are being sold. The theory goes that Apple is losing out of loads of sales by not playing that game.

    That takes is to the alleged iTablet, which will supposedly debut this fall or early in 2010, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe. It will have a 10-inch screen, or perhaps a little less, and will be based on the iPod touch in terms of operating system and internal workings.

    I suppose you could call it an iPod touch Pro, but that would be rather an awkward title, so I’ll stick with iTablet. I also favored iPhone before Apple’s hot-selling smartphone was originally announced, but I have no special resources for inside information of this sort. It was just a logically lucky guess.

    This doesn’t mean there will be no iTablet, or whatever it’ll be called. I suppose it could blow the netbooks out of the water, although it’ll cost twice the price of the latter if you can believe the rumors.

    The unfortunate thing about such stories is that a single rumor quickly begets another. The second report cites the original as confirmation that the alleged product is on track, and buttresses the story for subsequent variations on the theme. Soon you have an entire segment of the media reporting on something based on what might be nothing more than a misinterpretation of a subset of facts, or someone’s fanciful concept of what ought to happen.

    On the other hand, I’ve always felt that Apple will, on occasion, stoke the rumor fires with a few of their own, carefully seeded to select members of the media, both mainstream and otherwise. So if you read a story in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times about an impending Apple product or service, you can probably take it seriously so long as the source they site is not just a Mac rumor site. When a phrase such as “sources close to Apple” is used, you can almost feel assured that it did come from Apple, although not for direct attribution.

    Depending on the lead time, Apple might use public reaction as a gauge as to whether or not such a product has potential — aside from their own internal marketing research and not just the gut feeling of Steve Jobs — or to get people talking.

    It also keeps Apple’s name in the papers as it were. Right now, the only expected news from Apple in the near term is the official shipping date for Snow Leopard. Yes, it’s promised for September, but precisely when is still a matter of speculation. There is also talk of a new iPod line in September. Should the alleged iTablet be a consumer-oriented gadget, you might expect it to appear then as well, since it will stoke pre-holiday sales.

    Or maybe Apple isn’t ready, and there will be no iTablet or a similarly-styled computer. Maybe it’s all just wishful thinking after all, and we can return to our normal lives and forget about the subject. So long as you don’t take it seriously, though, I suppose no harm has been done.

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