Apple Tablet could change computing

Erik Eckel considers the Apple's latest unveiling, the much-discussed slate/tablet design. Will it have the same impact as the iPod and iPhone? He thinks it has the potential.

Erik Eckel considers the Apple's latest unveiling, the much-discussed slate/tablet design. Will it have the same impact as the iPod and iPhone? He thinks it has the potential.


I typically avoid grandiose statements. The really good ones, those proclamations that arrest attention and predict tidal waves of change that others don't necessarily foresee, arrive only a few times in one's lifetime. But we may well be standing on the precipice of just such an occurrence.

Apple's rumored plans for a new tablet computing device may well change the way people use computers. On the surface, the introduction of yet another tablet PC machine (a technology that's largely failed to gain widespread existence on the Windows platform) doesn't seem to mean much. But consider what Apple's been able to do with the iPod and iPhone.

The numbers are, simply, staggering. In November, Apple reported it has sold more than 50 million iPhones and iPod Touch units since the game-changing devices were introduced. Late last month CNET published a report estimating Apple would sell 8.2 to 8.8 million iPhones during the December quarter alone, with another 31 to 32 million units expected to sell in 2010.

The device's popularity is so great IT departments have found themselves supporting the them whether they want to or not. So great is iPhone demand among users, executives, and other staff that organizations everywhere are accommodating the Apple devices, and one Deutsche Bank analyst predicts Apple's iPhone enterprise adoption will continue to grow.

Most telling is the fact that independent developers have created more than 100,000 third-party applications just for the iPhone and iTouch platform. If any doubts remain as to the way the iPhone has changed users' daily habits-whether accessing email, calendars, contact information and a seemingly unlimited host of other applications-consider just one more fact. More than 3 billion-that's billion with a "b"-iPhone and iPod Touch applications have been downloaded from the Apple store within just 18 months, according to Apple. That's absolutely unprecedented.

Now imagine the popularity of a simple, secure, fast-performing and reliable tablet computer that provides almost all the functionality of an iPhone (and possibly all of the functionality, if cell phone service is somehow integrated within the device, which I find doubtful), but with a full keyboard integrated into the display. That's what some sites predict Apple's preparing to introduce with a new tablet computer. Notably, Apple's patent filings appear consistent with such claims.

It's quite possible, if Apple releases a capable tablet priced properly for widespread adoption, that IT departments everywhere will find themselves integrating and supporting the tablet computers as they have had to do with iPhones.

iPhones have changed the way users navigate, view news, connect with others, process email, manage calendars, and perform other basic everyday office operations. The integration of a well-designed keyboard within a reliable tablet computer that provides access to the services, features, and applications that the market is demanding could change the way we all compute.

Basically, Apple's rumored "iSlate" could capture the popularity of the iPhone and further fuel a new computing revolution by adding the convenience of a full-sized keyboard and additional storage space, more processing power, and an exponentially larger display. Once again, just as with iTunes, the iPod, and then the iPhone, the planets appear to be aligning for Steve Jobs & Company.

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