Apple Tablet Is Coming, Whether We Need It or Not

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-01-05

Apple Tablet Is Coming, Whether We Need It or Not

News Analysis: Just as blogger sleuths gradually unearthed the fine points surrounding Google's Nexus One smartphone, Internet detectives are dredging up details of Apple's tablet computer.

The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall) that the tablet will ship in March, quoting sources briefed by Apple.

This tablet is another form factor of computing devices we already use, including our PCs, laptops, netbooks, e-readers and smartphones. Consumers who purchase Apple's tablet will watch movies, play games, surf the Internet, and read electronic books and newspapers, all things people can do from the aforementioned devices. However, the Journal noted:

"People briefed by Apple say the company intends to carve out a new product category. With the new device, Apple wants to change the way consumers interact with a variety of content, these people said. Textbooks and newspapers, for example, could be presented differently through color screens, a touch interface, and the integration of live up-to-the-minute information from multiple sources."

That sounds interesting. However, the Journal then cites Oppenheimer & Co.'s Yair Reiner, who said based on talks with sources that the tablet would be priced at about $1,000. Well, that certainly gives one pause, right?

Aren't computing devices supposed to be getting cheaper? My $300 Asus Eee PC says they are. It enables me to do all of the Web activities mentioned above, at least as far as everyone else can do these things online. No tricks or eye candy. Just good old-fashioned Web surfing for a reasonable price.

Blogger Joe Wilcox wrote a piece on Beta News that burned up the blogosphere. Wilcox argued that the world does not need another tablet, at least not one when the world has smartphones such as Apple's iPhone:

"Apple is part of the reason why tablets cannot succeed in the current market. The iPhone already is a tablet, with touchscreen keyboard, always-connected Internet and pocketable size for an affordable price ($99 for the 3G model, subsidized)."

He was quickly eviscerated in digital ink by TechCrunch blogger and Apple devotee MG Siegler and blogger/pundit Robert Scoble, in their own respective publishing grounds.

Dont Tell Apple Fans What They Dont Need

Wilcox can't win this argument for the simple fact that you can't tell people what they do or don't need. If Siegler and Scoble want to spend $1,000 on a newfangled computing form factor, Wilcox isn't going to stop them. There are people who will buy every new gadget because they love gadgets. There's nothing craven or wrong about that-some folks are simply compelled to have every new toy. God loves gadgetheads, too.

I, for one, will not buy an Apple tablet, no matter how mind-blowing it is with what I can only assume will be cutting-edge computing sorcery and digital eye candy, such as 3D graphics. I would not by this device if Google made it with Android or Chrome Operating System, certainly not for $1,000.

Why? Because I try to exercise gadget restraint. Spending $1,000 on a computing device that does what my $300 Asus Eee PC does, albeit with a few more digital effects and trickery, is not something I believe in. I've never spent $1,000 on a computer, and I won't start now.

But I speak only for me and only as someone who uses computers primarily to work and pay bills. I will not chastise anyone who wants to refill Apple's coffers with more coinage for making computing more pretty. I certainly won't tell people the world doesn't need the Apple tablet.

I should note that Siegler agonized over the $1,000 pricing rumor in a follow-up post, which doubles as an attack on the Journal's reportage. Siegler psychoanalyzed the $1,000 tablet valuation, arguing that Apple put it out there to analysts and others so as not to shock a consumer world recovering from a recession when the tablet is announced, again allegedly, Jan. 27:

"It's in people's minds now that this is how much it will be, and they can ponder that for a few weeks leading up to the event. That way, if the device actually is around that price, people will have been prepared for it when it's officially announced. It will put the product's features back into the spotlight, rather than the price, which will have been already known."

Siegler's rationalization of the $1,000 price, which may seem as insane to economists analyzing the recession as it does to Joe Worker who has been unemployed for 12 months, is the classic rhetoric of Apple apologists. Surely Siegler knows that such a device will be a tough sell to the masses recovering from a recession, but here he is, justifying and defending an alleged $1,000 pricing. Apple stockholders also dream of high margins. 

Of course, if this Apple tablet proposes to dramatically alter the computing experience as we know it and ends up costing $500 or less someday, I will reconsider buying it or something of its ilk. Scoble noted: "Look five years out and the device that is $1,000 today will probably be $200 or less." I hope he is right.

Until then, the next device I buy will likely be a Chrome OS-based netbook in 2011, assuming it costs less than $500 and I like what I see when I test it. Until then, for $1,000, the Apple fanboys can have the tablet all to themselves.

And you know what? They will. All hail the Apple cult.

Rocket Fuel