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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9 Responses to “Be Careful What You Believe About Apple!”

  1. dfs says:

    There are good things and bad things about Apple’s famous policy of secrecy. It’s amusing to see rumor sites being reduced to behaving like Sovietologists and trying to predict Apple’s future by parsing such things as patent applications, job advertisements, and real or supposed purchase orders with subcontractors (as well as more reliable straws in the wind such as Intel’s much more open  roadmap to future processors). The is no doubt an upside to this corporate secrecy (it sometimes allows Apple to totally beat out the competition), but as a (very minor) AAPL shareholder I tend to focus on the downside. Very often rumors of some forthcoming product surface, and when the product in question fails to materialize Wall Street punishes Apple by lowering the value of its stock. As for this netbook / tablet idea, I don’t quite see how it would fit in with Apple’s overall scheme of things or what exactly it would be supposed to do. Such a device would have been a great idea if they had marketed it as, among other things, an e-book reader and had ready a large and compelling library of books accessible via iTunes. But, if that was ever they idea, they let the Kindle beat them to the marketplace, and it is a little hard to see how they could move into this area now since Amazon has so many books already tied up. Barring something like that, what exact need of mine would this device be supposed to satisfy? Apple would have to convince me that it could do something for me, and I’m not certain what that might be.

  2. sri says:

    Apple Tablet may be launched this Christmas or possibly as early as September. I hope this will be another great rally for apple earnings. I will buy one of this for sure. The iphone started to be too little to stay all the day looking things. I am a great fan of apple product so started collecting all the information (more than 200 sites) about Apple Tablet(News, Videos, Pics, Pre reviews, Rumors etc.,). If you are interested take a look at the below link

  3. DaveD says:

    Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, stock analyst, has followed Apple for a long time. I became aware of him when he appeared on a Mac Radio Show several years ago. He has been the first-and-only analyst who stated that Apple stock value would be over $100. Mr. Munster also was the one that said that Apple will make a cellphone.

    Both situations were hard for me to believe and yet, came to fruition. So when Mr. Munster mentioned about a tablet-like device in 2010, I am more likely to believe him. I tend to think any so-called announcements for this year are bogus. The perfect venue for this media pad device would be the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.

    There is a big glaring gap from the iPhone/iPod touch to MacBook. It would be nice to see a device that has the mobility of an iPod touch and features of a mythical, smaller not-so-powerful MacBook. I would like one. Lugging my “white” MacBook around is still a chore.

  4. iphonerulez says:

    Yeah, I’m sure if this tablet had wings it would fly. This tablet is the wildest Apple rumor ever. It’ll take a basketball player to palm the device just to hold it in one hand. The whole tablet carrying concept seems really ridiculous in a practical sense, no matter how useful it actually is. Seeing is believing.

    I hope I’m wrong and Apple sells millions of them, but I really just can’t visualize the product at all. The Kindle DX seems like a really useful device, but it can only go so far as a niche product. I’d say the same thing about the Apple tablet. Anyway, go Apple.

  5. dfs says:

    ” The Kindle DX seems like a really useful device, but it can only go so far as a niche product.” Yes, but IF (and that’s a big qualification) Apple could assemble enough books to make an e-book reader a viable product (by hooking up with somebody like Barnes and Noble or Borders, for instance, and by permitting access to all the free stuff now available from sources like Google Books, Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg), and if it had the additional capacity to do a lot of other useful and entertaining stuff as well, then it would blow Kindle out of the water. Kindle, after all, is what you call a niche product because it’s a one-trick pony.

  6. Jeff says:

    Why does Apple need to assemble books? Amazon have happily made the Kindle Reader available on the iPhone and its not in their interests to take that away.

    It makes far more sense for Apple to say to Amazon “we sell the razor, you can sell the blades”.

  7. Doug Aghassi says:

    Gene, are you trying to say there is not going to be an Apple Tablet?

    I do not care if Apple did not actually “officially” announce the device yet, it is on its way.

    Pet Peeve: I wish people would stop comparing this Apple Tablet computing device to the Kindle, the latter is simply an electronic reading device and the former will be awesome.

    I wrote a quick blog article talking about the potential OS/GUI of the “potential” Apple Tablet…

    • Gene Steinberg says:

      I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to suggest what Apple may or may not release. The real question is how such an animal would fit within the existing product line, whether it could cannibalize sales of the MacBook or MacBook Pro and whether, regardless, Apple could sell enough to make sense.

      If I knew that, I’d be rolling in money now as an expert analyst. There are no expert analysts, alas!


  8. Karl says:

    If Apple releases a tablet, it will probably be called the “MacTouch”. I can see it as a fusion between a netbook and tablet PC. I think that’s really the only way it could work with their product line. Anything smaller starts to cannibalize iPod Touch sales and anything larger, the MacBook sales.

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