Although Apple currently has a deal with a single carrier in the U.S., AT&T, for its bestselling iPhone, recent rumors indicate the company could be considering multiple carriers for its much-speculated tablet PC.
Apple's tablet, widely expected to make its debut during a Jan. 27 presentation in San Francisco, has not been officially confirmed by the company; nonetheless, media and analysts have been speculating for months about the device's possible form and function, generally seeming to agree that Apple has developed a portable media device capable of displaying everything from e-books to television shows. The newest talk, however, centers on the possibility that both AT&T and Verizon Wireless are in discussions to provide the tablet with a 3G connection.
"Apple is in talks with both AT&T and Verizon to support the tablet, according to sources within the companies," Clayton Morris wrote on FoxNews.com on Jan. 21. "One version of the device will run on CDMA networks such as Verizon's, and one will operate on GSM networks like that owned by AT&T."
If that prediction pans out, and an Apple tablet is offered for both AT&T and Verizon, it will add another wrinkle to the increasingly antagonistic relationship between the two carriers. Late in 2009, AT&T asked a federal court in Atlanta to stop Verizon from airing ads that derided AT&T's 3G coverage in the U.S., a request subsequently turned down; the two companies have continued to fire direct broadsides at each other in their advertising.
Tethering a data plan and carrier to the tablet may help Apple reduce the cost of the device, estimated by analysts to range anywhere from $600 to nearly $1,000, but at the risk of alienating a certain subset of customers. In a survey of 500 randomly selected users by online electronics marketplace Retrevo, some 44 percent of respondents said that a monthly data plan requirement would stop them from purchasing a tablet. Another 70 percent said that a tablet priced at $700 and above would be out of their price range.
Apple's 2010 revenues would be drastically affected by the success or failure of a tablet PC. Just as sales of traditional iPods declined in 2009, as those devices' market-share was cannibalized by the iPod Touch and the iPhone, a tablet PC has the potential to chew into the market for Apple's other devices. Apple is rumored to be negotiating with a variety of publishers, including HarperCollins and Conde Nast Publications, to port their content wirelessly onto a tablet.