Apple's tablet: What happens when the tech lust wears off?

Apple will unveil its latest creation, reportedly a tablet that could reinvent media, entertain us, change our lives in ways unforeseen, part the seas, cure cancer and perhaps bring us world peace. And that happens only if Apple's tablet merely meets expectations.

Special Report: Apple Tablet

Let's entertain just for a minute that Apple's tablet will be more Apple TV than iPhone.

In a little more than 24 hours, Apple will unveil its latest creation, reportedly a tablet that could reinvent media, entertain us, change our lives in ways unforeseen, part the seas, cure cancer and perhaps bring us world peace. And that happens only if Apple's tablet merely meets expectations. Yes folks, the Apple hype-o-meter has completely spun out of control, but the real world will have a few reservations.

Searches on "Apple," "tablet," and every variation in between have skyrocketed on Google. In the technology world, we've covered almost every base there is to cover (and most of us have no clue what Apple CEO Steve Jobs is going to unveil). Gizmodo has a cardboard mockup of how you'll hold Apple's tablet.

Jobs is going to slay dragons. He's going to unveil the most important thing he's ever done at least a friend of a friend sixteen people removed from Jobs said. And he's going to have a really tough time living up to this advance billing.

Yes, even Jobs may have trouble meeting these expectations. Why? Outside our little tech bubble, real people---you know the ones who have budgets and don't like to piss away hundreds of dollars on every gadget that comes down the pike---are interested in Apple's concoction, but are reserving judgment.

The common question: "I have an iPhone and a laptop. What is this thing going to do that those two can't?"

Also: Apple tablet: All you need to know

I just kind of nod my head. I have no clue what this device will do, but if it can consolidate a few of the devices I carry on the plane, I'm interested. Apple's tablet could replace an e-reader. Or not. It could replace your laptop. But probably not. I do know one thing: If it's yet another device to carry around---YADTCA---I'm less interested in Apple's tablet.

Ask someone other than your Webhead/engineer/Apple fanboy/programmer/tech enthusiast about Apple's tablet and there's a similar feeling. The folks at dinner parties, your church and the supermarket feel like they're locked and loaded with gadgets.

Now I know folks will point out that Apple has continuously made a mint giving us things that we don't think we need. There were MP3 players before the iPod. And there were certainly phones before the iPhone. And we all know that tablet PCs have been around forever (and never caught on). According to central casting, Jobs will hit the stage and do it all over again---this time with a tablet.

But once the tech lust fades, you have all those real people who haven't bought netbooks, e-readers and all those devices positioned between the PC and smartphone.

So what are the core issues that will sway the masses to Apple's Jesus Tablet?

Here's a look:

Price: Apple doesn't compete on price, but when you're dealing with a new category it matters. Why? You can get a well-equipped Windows 7 laptop for $500. You can get a MacBook for $999. You can get a Kindle for $259. Apple's challenge will be to thread the pricing needle. If Apple prices its tablet too high then folks will say, "I'll just buy a laptop."

The connectivity: Apple's tablet is likely to have 3G and Wi-Fi access. The rub: The 3G is going to cost something. That cost is going to be a factor for consumers. Device fatigue: Some folks are tired of carrying a bunch of devices. They want convergence. Does this sound familiar? You get on an airplane and you're armed with a smartphone, a laptop, an iPod and increasingly a Kindle. You need the phone for texts and email. You need the laptop because you can't review presentations and delete thousands of emails on your phone. You need the iPod for music. And the Kindle for reading. We're tired of all those devices. If Apple's tablet can nuke the Kindle and iPod (and potentially the laptop) on the airplane then Jobs may have a winner.

The ecosystem: Yes, we know there will be a lot of apps. And we know that the Apple tablet will be a gaming machine. But the content deals will matter. Will Apple's tablet and iTunes have enough firepower to replace Netflix? How about your cable bill?

Simply put, Apple has a case to make for its tablet device. Apple will wow you on the first day and may even live up to its advance billing with its tablet. But the real success will be determined by all of those non-tech folks you run into around town.