Recently, Apple’s oft-rumored Tablet device has done nothing but build up in hype, despite the fact that Apple has never confirmed a word of what’s been said. A recent article in CNN recently summed up essentially every reason there is to be excited about such a prospect, without offering up any new information on the product.
Loads of speculation has resulted in a poetinal/maybe/probable/completely-uncomfirmed mock-up of the portable device. It will use the iPhone operating system. It will come in a high resolution. It will have 3G. It will offer portable video conferencing. Applications ranging from the basic (a word processor) to the complex (gaming device) to the now standard (internet, mp3) will be included. Or maybe it won’t. Because Apple hasn’t come out and said a single thing about the existence of such a product. But that hasn’t stopped Dan Ackerman, senior editor at CNET, from saying that “Apple will come out with the tablet and blow everyone away.”
That’s what’s the brilliant thing. Apple hasn’t done a single thing, yet the wild imagination of the Internet has generated a product so seemingly amazing that all Apple needs to do is nod their head ‘yes’ and their stock will jump about a million points. But a bucket load of user-generated hype is only one of the many fantastic advantages Apple has right now. As of yet, the tablet market has yet to touch base with a mainstream market. Sure, they’ve served some industry-specific uses (the medical industry comes to mind) but the market share is incredibly low when compared to net books, laptops, and smart phones. Additionally, Apple has the complete trust of nearly every iPod-iPhone-Mac-loving person in the world. Say what you want about Apple, but there’s no denying that in recent years their product lines (specifically the iPod and iPhone) have commanded a significant market share, reducing the competition to a meaningless bother.
With a tablet computer, Apple can bring the item into the hands of not just business executives (drawn by the potential of mobile video conferences and editing documents anywhere) but casual users (it’s like the iPhone… with more to do). And doing so can potentially set off a number of copycats (see Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile’s immediate responses to the iPhone) which fuel competition, and maybe even better products. Remember the mp3 market before the iPod? It looked something like this:
Additionally, Apple has had many experiences with launches to avoid mistakes. The missteps of the AppleTV (a million sold after a predicted 1.5 million) have been combed over by critics enough so Apple knows what not to do. The steep price of the iPhone when it was first released (starting at $500 for what is now, three years later, a $99 device) was a large matter of discomfort amongst consumers, especially when Apple steeply dropped the price only months later. With a proper price point and an ad campaign as slick as those of its current products, Apple is basically guaranteeing itself ten million sales.
Not everyone is optimistic about the appearance of such a product. Ian Paul of PC World wrote an article recently entitled “The Apple Tablet is Dead” puts it as bluntly as the article title: “These rumors are getting so ridiculous that I think it’s time we accepted the truth: the Apple tablet is dead; in fact it probably never existed.” Paul cites numerous delays (true, if you count rumored release dates, because that’s all we have to go by), fluctuating costs, and the cost of building an energy-saving, LCD model to be much too high for Apple to price one reasonably. But he seems to be one of the lone cynics in a sea of people who, at the very least, believe such a device is coming. Follow-up comments to the article indicate a near-universal opinion of disagreement, with people saying that Apple will “take the world by surprise and storm” or that Paul is simply “trolling for clicks.”
Even worse than the Apple Tablet’s extinction: it could come out and make no impact whatsoever. CNN’s tablet article gives an example that I don’t think could be done any better: “For instance, smartphones have cameras for quick snapshots, but when you go on vacation, you’re probably going to want your digital camera to come along with you for high-quality photos.” Analyst Zues Kerravala says in the same article, “What we’ve found in the past with these multi-function devices is that they’re better for ad-hoc purposes, like quick and dirty tasks.”
With a device as anticipated as the Apple Tablet, Apple can take its time preparing whatever it wants – if such a thing exists. Since their public withdrawal from Macworld, Apple has been able to capture the attention of the global media by just holding a simple press conference. When Apple speaks, people listen. If Apple unleashes its personal computer, it’s very likely it can make numerous other devices obsolete – and perhaps usher in a whole new marketplace of ideas. But if it doesn’t, another company may snatch up the opportunity. The Tablet PC has incredible untapped potential as a user-friendly multimedia device; it’s just that no one has done anything about it yet. Still, fanboys won’t stop dreaming until Apple puts the nail in the Apple Tablet’s coffin.