Both Andrew and Jason posted the news about the latest Apple tablet computer rumor that has the 9.7 inch device slated for an October release for $800. As a guy who tried a few Windows Tablet PC devices in the past, but rarely even used the touch screen functionality of the Tablets I at first just kind of shrugged off this latest rumor. Then I paused and thought a bit more about what Apple did with the smartphone market after launching the iPhone and now I think there are some real possibilities here for Apple to again demonstrate how something like a large screen tablet can be done right.
We have had Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Palm smartphones around for years when the Apple iPhone was launched. Those of us in the mobile industry and those in corporate environments were fairly familiar with wireless data access, but it seems that very few consumers fully understood what a phone could do for them. Apple changed the game with the iPhone launch and their huge marketing campaign that made people aware of what these devices could do. I actually think that Apple and the iPhone probably helped out every mobile operating system as it brought a level of understanding to the entire mobile phone community and then people started realizing there were more choices available.
The Tablet PC and UMPC market never really took off for Microsoft and was a pretty niche market with a few selected areas of industry (primarily healthcare and field workers) that embraced the technology and devices. Netbooks swooped in at low prices and in form factors that people are used to working with and I think essentially killed off any possibility of Tablet PCs ever taking off. Tablet PCs and UMPCs were priced too high for consumers at $1,000 to $2,500+ with little real advantage over a much cheaper notebook.
If Apple can launch a tablet form factor device for $800, people may find a way to afford it. Apple is going to have to "tell the story" (something my buddy Michael Gartenberg likes to say) of why and how this tablet device can improve your life and be an enjoyable product. Apple will probably sell at least a million right off the bat to Apple fans, but they also need to go beyond that base to have a successful product. Given what Apple has done with the iPhone and the App Store I am actually excited to see what that looks like in a device of this form factor.
I don't think they can just release a MacBook without a keyboard and a touch sensitive on-screen keyboard and have a product that everyone wants to own, which may be why it is taking so long to come out with a tablet Apple device. Will we see some new text input technology? Will we see some new way to manage and use your media content from the Apple tablet? Will social networking, Internet browsing, and sharing media with family and friends have a whole new look? There are some cool things Apple can do here with this form factor and we will just have to continue to wait and see if this rumored device ever appears.