Apple could be rolling out a Mac Tablet in the first half of 2010, according to widely circulated Wall Street analyst report. While Apple has publicly shot down suggestions that it would enter the mininotebook or netbook market, the existence of a multitouch tablet device could represent a potential threat to Amazon.com, which anticipates making billions from its own flat-screen Kindle mobile e-reader devices.
Rampant rumors have Apple
releasing a Mac Tablet computer with multitouch capability within the next
year. Such a release has the potential to challenge many competing companies in
both the PC and mobile device markets.
If the rumors of the tablet's capabilities prove true, there is also
potential for it to challenge Amazon.com's
increasing lucrative Kindle e-Reader mobile devices, which offer similar flat-screen
functionality for e-books.
Expected in the first half of 2010, according to analysts from research
company Piper Jaffray, Apple's tablet device will feature a 7- to 10-inch screen
and utilize Apple's multitouch patents. Speculation puts the price point at
somewhere in the $500 to $1,000 range.
The rumored Apple product immediately attracted a good deal of online buzz,
including a flurry of Twitter postings and a number of online pundits
speculating about the device's potential capabilities.
However, analysts were quick to caution that the device, whatever final form
it takes, should not be seen as a mininotebook, or netbook, similar to what
other companies such as Dell have released in order to appeal to
recession-strapped customers wanting to pay less for computing power. Instead,
according to Gene Munster, the lead analyst of Piper Jaffray's report, the
Apple tablet will likely "fill the gap between the iPod Touch and the
Apple itself would probably like to downplay any netbook angle. In an April
22 conference call, Apple
Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook told financial analysts that netbooks were
"not a segment we would chose to play in." Mac shipments in 2009 have
stayed strong despite the global recession.
"We are anticipating a new category of Apple products with an operating
system more robust than the iPhone's but optimized for multitouch, unlike Mac
OS X," Munster said in the
report. "The device's OS could bear a close resemblance to Apple's mobile
OS and run App Store apps, or it could be a modified version of Mac OS X."
Whatever the final form of the operating system, there is a chance it could
include the ability to run applications from Apple's App Store-which means it
could run any number of e-reader applications, including Amazon.com's
own Kindle for iPhone App.
And therein lies a potential back door for Apple to make a claim on
Amazon.com's e-book market, where Amazon.com has a substantial head start.
released the Kindle DX, the successor to the Kindle 2, on May 6 at a
high-profile media event in Manhattan, N.Y.
In addition to the Kindle
DX's 9.7-inch screen, making it larger than the 6-inch Kindle 2 that rolled
out in February, the Kindle DX includes an auto-rotation feature for pivoting
onscreen pages and 3G wireless access to Amazon.com's 275,000-volume library.
The device retails for $489, compared with $359 for the Kindle 2. Amazon.com has
signed deals with textbook companies and newspapers such as The New York Times,
The Boston Globe and the Washington Post to deliver content to the devices.
The Kindle e-reader devices have done well for Amazon.com, with analysts
predicting that sales will top $1.2 billion in 2010 and $3.7 billion by 2012.
But does that mean Apple wants a slice of that pie?
"Something that Apple tends to be good at is letting other companies
take a lead in a market, learning from their mistakes and then coming out with
a product that doesn't have those weaknesses," Charles King, an analyst
with Pund-IT, said in an interview.
However, Apple may be hunting bigger game if it makes a tablet.
"There might be an opportunity there for Apple [in e-books]," King
said. "But I don't know if the potential market for downloadable books
would be attractive enough" for Apple to focus the bulk of its marketing
energies on that particular angle, he said. "People are thinking this is
going to be an upscale netbook."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.