Will Apple’s Tablet Succeed or Fail?

apple-tablet-yesnoLast week I caught a tweet from IT World’s Josh Fruhlinger in which he called the (not-so) rumored Apple tablet – or iPad, as everyone seems to call it now – “terrible” and “pointless,” referencing his latest blog post on the subject. My indignation could hardly be contained in 140 characters as I demanded that Josh explain himself. After a short back and forth we decided that Twitter was too small a venue for our passionate opinions and that a blog point-counterpoint would serve them better. Josh and I are crossing virtual borders today, both cross- and guest-posting here and at IT World. Since my point is in response to his post, I’ll go first: K.T. — Why the Apple Tablet Will Succeed When tweeting on the iPad’s limitations last week, Josh noted the lack of physical keyboard and predicted that all users would be able to do is surf the web, read e-mail and watch or listen to media. For $600, a price we both agree is in the likely ballpark, he didn’t see much point to the thing. And in his IT World post he further stated that the iPad fell into the same category as nettops and i-computers and will fail accordingly. I disagree that the iPad will be as limited as Josh envisions. Extrapolating from what I’ve seen on the iPhone and iPod Touch, I can see Apple’s tablet being an excellent on-the-go machine for students, bloggers, even professionals.  With room for better hardware and more screen real-estate to work with, it will have much more functionality than the iPhone. A touchscreen tablet is only as exciting as its software, true. But Apple has shown what is possible and allowed developers to expand those possibilities with the app store. Imagine the e-reader apps that allow written notes and markups, or the word processor apps that mix paper and electronic editing functions, or the accelerometer games writ large. Apple will make sure that its tablet’s software that lives up to the promises of its hardware. Apple’s tablet will slide easily into the netbook space, though it will find itself at the high end. This isn’t a bad thing – as Josh points out, Apple is comfortable occupying that niche. But beyond just being more expensive, this tablet will take mobile computing to another level. Yes, it will lack an attached keyboard, freeing it up for use on the go. Truly on the go – on the bus or subway, while walking or standing in line. If the iPad was going to be a web-only device similar to the CrunchPad, I would say that, yes, for $600 that’s not terribly exciting, even with the touchscreen capability. But I don’t see Apple creating such a limited machine. Even if the company doesn’t deign to call it so, it will be a netbook without a keyboard. And even then, that doesn’t mean it can’t acquire one. When the first rumors of an Apple tablet started floating around just before the last MacWorld I started imagining the accessories that would inevitably follow. You can’t go two feet in an electronics store these days without tripping over iPod docks, speakers, alarm clocks, and any number of other gleaming white or glossy black accessories for the world’s favorite media player. How long do you think it will be before the iPad has its own? Unless Apple puts unreasonable limitations on its hardware, the accessory field is wide open. I have no doubt that users will be able to buy a wireless keyboard and mouse so they can do more intense work when they’re stationary and use the on-screen keyboard when they’re mobile.Of course this would cost extra money. But people who don’t balk at paying $600 for the iPad are probably willing to pay an extra $50 – $75 for a useful accessory. They pay enough for the useless ones. The Apple tablet will fit in at the high-end of the netbook market – a market that’s incredibly strong and still growing. If Apple creates a touchscreen experience that delivers something better than consumers have been given before (which will not be hard, as I’ve noted already), then the iPad, like the iPod and iPhone before it, will be a successful premium product. Josh — Why the Apple Tablet Will Fail Believe it or not, I used to be pretty excited about the long-rumored iPad/tablet thingie. It’s easy to be excited about things that you know only vague details about, and therefore can just project your own thoughts onto them. Back then, I was visualizing something that ran a flavor of the iPhone OS — this, I thought, would make for relatively processor-unintensive system that could run on an Atom chip or something similarly low-powered (and cheap). I also imagined that it would be a true netbook — with, crucially, a keyboard that, if not full-sized, was at least large enough to touch-type on. But all the rumors that have come out in the last few months are pointing towards a true tablet — the defining feature of which is, at least for me, that it doesn’t have a keyboard. This is, I think, a bigger problem than the tablet boosters are admitting. A netbook with a keyboard is a device that you can do actual work on. A tablet without a physical keyboard becomes, in essence, a glorified toy. “Hey!” you’re saying right about now. “My iPhone isn’t a toy!” Well, no. It makes phone calls. It sends text messages. And, more importantly, it fits in your pocket. It lets you watch and listen and do some light surfing and e-mailing (emphasis on the light — when’s the last time you sent an email of any length from your iPhone?) from wherever you happen to be. The theoretical tablet loses that go-anywhere advantage. Yes, it would be significantly lighter than your laptop, easy to drop into a purse or backpack. But how many scenarios can you envision where you’d be on the go and want both your phone (and anyone gadget-mad enough to buy this thing is going to have a phone, probably a pricey one) and a tablet, but not a computer you can type on? K.T. says that an ecosystem of peripherals will pop up, including a keyboard, and maybe she’s right. But it seems like the thing would have to be popular to begin with for that to happen — and if it fails to find traction, peripheral makers will fail to sign on. Oh, and if rumors are right, the tablet will come with another wireless bill to provide its always-on connectivity, maybe from Verizon. iPhone users (who I’d assume would be among the core gadget geeks interested in the thing) would end up with different bills from different companies. In short, here’s my issue. The tablet will probably do some things very elegantly. It will for certain be nicer to surf the Web or watch movies on than a ten-inch tablet than it is on a three-inch phone. But there’s plenty that the tablet won’t be able to do elegantly, or at all; to do those things, you’ll need a phone and a laptop anyway. And once you have a phone and a laptop, it’s hard to visualize dropping a $600 or more on a tablet and carrying it around with you, no matter how elegant it is. Even Apple’s hard core has its limits. Who’s Right? Who’s got it right? Will the iPad offer too limited functionality for too high a price, or end up fulfilling the tablet promise and then some? Join the discussion here on LAPTOP’s blog and at IT World. Image Credit: Apple Insider

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  1. JonGl Says:

    Don’t you guys think you should wait until there actually _is_ a tablet to argue about? I mean, you are arguing over a _rumor_!!!

    If Apple releases a tablet (and I stress _if_), we can bet it will be both of two things. 1. Far more limited in scope than people are expecting. Remember the iPhone–ATT-only, no third-party apps, no multi-tasking, no external keyboard/hard keyboard. Terribly limited, and perversely, 2. Far more expectation-bending than we are able to imagine without knowing their minds.

    In other words, your words are just empty words without a product to argue about! Just hold your breath until there’s something to argue about. Then, at least, there will be sense to it!

    -)on

  2. Darin Says:

    I totally agree, if you have an iPhone and a Macbook, it doesn’t make sense. But, apple will do something to it, possibly make it replace the Apple TV? Or something else that will make a lot of people buy it.

  3. Fanfoot Says:

    Well, I for one want one. And yes, I’ll be perfectly happy with a Wifi-only living room coffee table version which never leaves the house.

    What would it do? Well, in its charging stand it would act as a photoframe.

    It could also be hooked up to your stereo and could play your iTunes music while offering a nice interface for music playback that anybody at your party could use. Yes, sort of what I use my Apple TV for most often.

    It would support a nice web browser of course. Just like the iPhone’s but with more screen real estate. Of course this time Flash support *is* required.

    It would serve as a media device, streaming music, movies, TV shows etc off the web, as well as allowing you to watch media you purchased off iTunes. Or with an HDMI port hooked up to your TV, for playback (in HD) on your 16:9 TV in 720p.

    It would offer an eBook function, which would compete with Amazon. Sure the battery life won’t be as good, but it will do all those other things. And with the color screen, it will handle stuff like Magazines and Comic Books (excuse me, graphic novels) that the Kindle really can’t. Even things like travel books or technical books that don’t work that well on the Kindle would work well on this thing. I would expect to read Laptop Magazine and a more realistic version of the New York Times on this thing.

    It would offer a development environment for home entertainment and in fact full house control, including IR and RF accessories accessed via Bluetooth. Start Apple down the path of whole home automation etc.

    Some Apple TV functions? Don’t see it really, but maybe they’ll partner with somebody like Direct TV or Tivo and let you watch shows from your TV. I think its more likely they’ll just make sure Hulu, TV.com, ABC.com, etc all work properly on the device.

    An App store? Of course. In particular support for all those casual games that everybody loves so much on the iPhone, just with a little more real estate. Word games, tetris, Poker, Boggle, Solitaire, strategy games, etc etc. Will probably even run the existing iPhone applications, either in a window or blown up big (? ick).

    What else? A photo viewer of course, for showing others your latest pics.

    A Kitchen computer if placed in a stand. Weather, traffic, movie times, notes to your family, etc all on a simple desktop using widgets. Yellow pages. Maps. Recipies. All the stuff those all-in-one touchscreen kitchen computer things based on Atom are trying to be.

    A clock radio if left by your bedside. Wake to music, emulate a flip clock, etc. All things the iPhone can do, but just one more thing to help justify its cost.

    And on and on. The uses are almost limitless. Yes, the lack of a keyboard will be limiting in some ways, though I agree with K. T. that 3rd parties will offer virtually any accessory if the thing has the right sex appeal at launch.

  4. nubwaxer Says:

    why is this old stale page still up in 2014?

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