While the Tablet PC invented by Microsoft never captured the imagination of the buying public, the rumors of an Apple slate device just won’t go away. It has been rumored for years that Apple is working on some sort of tablet device, and this year the talk of such a gadget heated up to a fevered pitch. No one can predict what the folks in Cupertino may be working on, but industry insiders have pretty much reached the conclusion that an Apple slate is indeed imminent. Evidence of specific hardware components that Apple is ordering has those who watch such things convinced that we will see the company release a tablet early next year.
Why should Apple expect to succeed with a tablet when the Tablet PC never did? The original Tablet PC was pitched for content creation, with an emphasis on handwriting on the screen. The technology to interpret handwriting was better than most folks realized, but it was not compelling enough to generate sales numbers as desired. Pricing was a big factor, too, with Tablet PCs costing much more than premium notebooks, often over $2,000.
But in the years since the original tablets were introduced, content consumption — not creation — has become valued in many consumer devices and services, from e-books to Twitter. The explosion of content online is something that we’ve observed closely over the last few years, and an Apple slate will be positioned to meet that need; after all, Apple revolutionized the smartphone space with the iPhone, specifically by creating a great handheld web surfing device. As good as the web experience is on the iPhone, however, the larger screen of a slate will make it a revolutionary web tablet — and more. Think of the utility a 10-inch iPhone could provide for online browsing, and the new slate from Apple becomes a very compelling device. Additionally, it can be expected that Apple would use the slate as its answer to the low-cost netbook market, with a price far below that of the $2,000 Tablet PC, making it more attractive to consumers.
Prudence would usually dictate taking a wait-and-see attitude for those in affected industries, but an Apple slate, should it emerge, will create business opportunities so massive that it is worth taking a hard look at them now.