Posted by: lsinrc | August 6, 2009

There is a Need for Apple’s Potential Tablet

I hesitate to make comments on unverified devices, because there is already too much speculation going on. But I cannot let some of the short-sighted comments spinning around the web go unchecked. I feel a need to qualify that I am not an Apple fan-boy–I do not look forward to another Steve-stage moment. I disdain Apple’s silly neurotic tactics that often out-Microsoft even Microsoft–but more on that later.

People say Apple won’t put out a tablet because the tablet market has not been that successful. But this Apple tablet (if it exists) is not going after the current tablet market. The market where an Apple tablet could be successful is a reading device that also has computing power. I have used two Windows tablets, a Gateway brick (that weighed a ton) and a ultra-mobile Dell that unfortunately had lots of bugs. The Gateway was way to cumbersome, and while the Dell was still slightly too heavy, I still found that using it as a reading-browsing device was fantastic with its ability to let me manipulate pages with hand touches on the screen . It opened my eyes to the real need for a light yet somewhat powerful reading device.

People comment that Apple wouldn’t put out a device just to compete with the Kindle. The Kindle has three main weaknesses: 1) cannot read it in low light, 2) no color, and most importantly, 3) the content is geared to the content they want to sell you. It is just too limiting as they designed it to be a black & white book replacement, not an all-around reading device for all the content, including easy web content. My reading sources are too diverse for the Kindle: browsing the web, RSS, Twitter/Facebook, email, the list goes on and on. If someone put out a device that EASILY accesses all the web content, plus a book/article e-reader that was flexible for resizing content with multiple views, I would definitely be on the potential customer list (and I don’t let go of my money easily). This capability is particularly important for any device to work as a newspaper replacement, and while the Kindle is on the right track, it ain’t there yet.

There has been talk of Kindles being used as textbook replacements in schools, but the lack of color and flexibility for viewing charts, graphs, photos, and diagrams make it too limiting for student needs. A color tablet with flexible viewing could have a huge impact in this market, particularly if it can draw from static files as well as live web content.

Pundits say that a tablet device like what is being proposed is too limited without a built-in keyboard. Hello?!? Haven’t they heard of bluetooth keyboards? A tablet that had a small stand so that it can be viewed while typing on a wireless keyboard and mouse would work great. Right now I am using an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse on my Windows laptop–the attached keyboard on the laptop is a waste of space at this moment.

Most tablet critics underestimate the demand for reclining while reading. Laptops and tablets in current form are too cumbersome. Low-light situations are key–I often wish for (and for medical reasons require) a device that is readable in low light while sitting and laying in all positions. Also think about non-driving commuters–it is too difficult to pull out a laptop to read for short stints. The kindle is too limited in content. I think there could be a high demand for device for reading small snippets or viewing media of all types (while listening to music or podcasts at the same time).

I also hear critics say it is too large to be a phone. That is likely true, but with a Bluetooth headset, it may be possible to utilize this device as a phone. The true power of the iPhone was its ability to be used as a networked data device, not its phone capabilities. For people who use the phone portion as a secondary need (like me), the tablet phone is plausible. I suspect as others do that Verizon will be a carrier for bringing content to this tablet (they could make a case it is not an iPhone and therefore not applicable to the ATT agreement), but voice could also be part of the package. That may be a stretch but it is technically possible. I suspect it will not be included as it gives ATT too much ground to pursue legal processes for breaking their contract.

Do you feel a Steve-induced reality distortion field coming on? I suspect so as I truly believe a device with these capabilities could be ground-breaking. I hope someone comes out with this device soon, as I would love these capabilities–but I am not sure I wish it was Apple. The user interface for this device would be crucial, and that is where Apple would shine. My main concern is that Apple is too predictable in their need to control and constrict. They are always willing to reduce flexibility and market share to squeeze extra revenue out of users’ activities for greater profit margins. Would I buy this device from Apple? My decision-making analogy is the balance scale–if the capabilities as a flexible, powerful reading/computing device can possibly outweigh Apple’s controlling neuroses, then maybe. But each year I find myself less inclined to buy Apple (and I am a 30-year Apple user) because of their overbearing, monopolistic behaviors on the services they provide. It is a tough call.

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