Not an iPhone or Macbook. Apple's Tablet will offer a new experience

Apple's new tablet won't replace the iPhone or the Macbook. This device is in a multimedia class of its own.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard rumors about Apple's big iTablet, iSlate or iSomething that's expected to be unveiled at an event later this month. You've also been hearing plenty of back-and-forth about whether this tablet is a 1) notebook replacement, 2) a super-sized iPhone, 3) the Mac version of a netbook, or 4) a competitor to the e-book readers.

I say it's a little of "all of the above" mixed with "none of the above." (How's that for wishy-washy?)

But first, the Wall Street Journal - citing "people briefed by the company" - today offered up some details about this "new multimedia tablet device" The report says It will have a 10-11 inch screen, will be priced at about $1,000 and possibly include a subscription to a nationwide Wi-Fi wireless service. Here's how the Journal described it:

The tablet is expected to be a multimedia device that will let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Internet and read electronic books and newspapers. Peopel briefed by Apple also say that the company believe it could redefine the way consumers interact with a variety of content. 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.

The way I see it, this device isn't meant to replace the iPhone or the notebook - sales of those products are doing just fine, thank you very much. As for netbooks - Apple considers them "junky," remember? E-readers? Hmmm... Maybe, but not as a standalone. Here's my theory:

This tablet - at 10-11 inches - is meant to be portable, not necessarily "mobile." There is a difference. A phone, an iPod and PSP are examples of mobile devices. It's nothing to walk around the mall with one or to whip one out in an elevator. An iMac, an Xbox 360 or a 22-inch LCD can be portable, but not mobile. I could move any of those devices from one room to another if I wanted to - but why would I? They're meant to be mostly stationary. And the elevator scenario is just plain silly.

If you think like Steve Jobs and Apple, you take the best of both of those worlds and you put them together to create a new category - a personal device that's meant more for a coffee table, kitchen or bedroom. It's the household newspaper, magazine rack, video library, jukebox, photo album and, possibly even your Kindle e-book reader all packed into one powerful, touch-screen, sleek piece of hardware that will have people lined up outside Apple stores around the globe just to be one of the first to drop $1,000 for one.

Of course your iPhone apps will work on it. And surely it will sync with iTunes to put your own music, photos and videos on it. Wouldn't it be cool if you could just stream content over your wireless home network, too, instead of wasting time and space with the synchronization? At $1,000, it's actually cheaper than most Mac notebooks. And by being portable, we focus on Wi-Fi and shift some attention away from that AT&T 3G iPhone fiasco.

As for content, I can't help but think of what Apple COO Tim Cook said about the interest in AppleTV, how video rentals was a pleasant surprise and that the company would continue to invest in it. Aside from a software upgrade not too long ago, AppleTV is still as clunky as it ever was. In some ways, it makes sense for a wireless multimedia tablet to replace AppleTV - or at least offer up its strongest points to a new product and category.

The book thing, however, is especially interesting. Sources tell ZDNet that Apple didn't license any new versions of PDF or Adobe Digital Edition for ebooks. Suddenly, Amazon, which previously released a Kindle app for the iPhone, looks like a potential partner. Apple sells apps, Amazon sells books. And unless Apple builds its own e-reader technology into this thing, the Kindle app could be the real deal.

Maybe I've been to one too many of these Apple events to know what sort of things Steve Jobs will have up his sleeve to wow the crowds. After all, this is the reportedly his baby, his big project that's been in the works for years and even been sent back to the drawing board more than once. Just when you think you've seen it all, he delivers something extra that makes you say, "Whoa!"

I know, too much Apple Kool-Aid. Call me crazy, but none of this seems out of reach for the company that brought us the iPod and the iPhone - two game-changing devices that reinvented our interactions with digital content.

Also see: Apple's Tablet and the 3G pricing wild card

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