Is the Apple Tablet More Than a Mirage?

The neverending speculation over Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) rumored tablet device is getting white-hot, and this time, there's more than reports of Apple talking to music industry executives or back-channel rumors from Chinese suppliers. Apple has supposedly booked a date to unveil its next wondergadget.

According to Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley Insider: "Apple is preparing to show off a new, larger mobile device with a higherresolution display in January -- probably a version of the Apple tablet we've been hearing about for months -- according to a plugged-in source in the mobile industry."

Throw in The Financial Times report that Apple has booked the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco for a product announcement in late January, and there's a pretty clear picture of where Apple's headed.

The popularity of netbooks forced major U.S. computer manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) to scramble to keep up with low-cost Asian peers such as Acer. Given the race to the pricing bottom in small-form-factor computers, it's no surprise Apple stayed out of the segment. It's just not the company's style.

However, the convergence of mobile computing devices and PCs has opened up quite a few creative opportunities in the low-end computing market. It's given companies an opportunity to build their own niche, and created platforms that can actually command a degree of premium pricing. Now there's an area where Apple can mint a fortune.

But the company's not alone: Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) is rolling out a new concept for a small mobile computer that exists between netbooks and mobile phones. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has its surprisingly innovative Courier concept lurking in the shadows.

So let's see what you've got, Apple. If the January announcement materializes, the company will likely be among those debuting competitive platforms in early 2010. Given Apple's history and pole position, I wouldn't bet against it in this race.

Excited about the Tablet? Have something on your mind about Apple? Sound off in the comments section below!

Eric Bleeker owns shares in no companies named above. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, while Dell is a former recommendation. Motley Fool Options recommended a diagonal call strategy on Microsoft. The Fool's disclosure policy is pleased with itself.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2009, at 12:28 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    iTunes has been such a huge hit that it has changed the music industry forever. The keys to that success were the unbundling of individual songs from a CD (not having to buy the entire CD); easy access over the Internet; and $1 per song pricing making it an easy purchase decision for most buyers.

    The iPhone and iPod Touch have been huge hits. The cell phone industry is changed forever. The keys to those successes are the slick user interface and the amazing online App Store with 100,000 plus Apps to download most at very low prices or free. There are many imitators but none have been very successful to date mainly because of the App store scale and momentum. Competitors can match hardware features but they can't deliver the software which is what really makes it work.

    Will the iPad or iTablet do the same for publishing? I think it may if Apple can convince publishers to price their products low enough. The low price per song and the low average price per app were crucial for the other products delivered via iTunes.

    There is no question that Apple will deliver a beautifully designed device with user friendly interface. I think it will be more attractively priced than most pundits are predicting. Apple will also take care of distribution most likely charging publishers just 30% of the sales price (much less than their costs of printing and physical distribution especially for glossy magazines). Publishers will have the opportunity to reinvigorate their businesses so long as they don't get too greedy on pricing. They need to be thinking about a business model change from low volume/high price to high volume/low price. If they do that, I believe it will work out for them.

    The same comments on pricing apply to the TV and Movie content providers. They are being offered a opportunity that they can blow with high pricing. I think they've already done that with movie pricing on iTunes.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2009, at 12:53 PM, accelerando wrote:

    Qualcomm? Now there's a company with a great team of software developers, hardware designers, human interface geniuses and marketing gurus. Are you kidding?

    If the iphone has become the platform of choice for game developers worldwide (of which I am one), imagine an iphone with a double-sized or maybe even triple-sized super-high resolution screen.

    We are drooling. Bye Bye nintendo. Bye Bye Sony.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2009, at 1:14 PM, CPAfellow wrote:

    Talking about iTunes... I'm actually a CPA for wealthy individuals and it's just unbelievable how much money some of these people spend on iTunes...

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2009, at 2:10 PM, Fool wrote:

    The simple answer to the question in the title is YES!

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2009, at 4:32 PM, Alfiejr wrote:

    exactly. what Acer, Archos, Nokia and all the rest cannot match is not the tablet hardware itself, but the full Apple ecosystem that knits it together with the rest of your digital life. iTunes is the cross-platform heart of the ecosystem. and extensive third party accessories further extend its reach. plus now of course, apps.

    only Microsoft could match the Apple ecosystem - in theory. but despite years of effort it still cannot get all its bits and pieces to work seamlessly with each other. way to go, Ballmer!

    this is why all the product reviews that simply compare hardware specs and features are so stupidly inadequate (iPhone vs. Droid, etc etc.). unfortunately we will see a lot more of that once the Apple tablet is unveiled.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2009, at 10:12 PM, anagin wrote:

    Not Sure about iTablet / iSlate (or what ever) but One thing Apple know very Well is to Create the Hype in the Market which they deserve indeed after the huge Success with iPhone as the Best Touch Screen Phone till date. No-One else could come close on this and its proved while other things that a Phone should have are still being fought among giants. I am not very excited about iTablet reason being it cant be better than an iPhone very simple I wont like a Bigger iPhone or a Smaller iPhone I like it as it is. Unless iTablet gives me some thing more (like a free Internet) or an Open Platform where I can Run what ever I want (impossible right!) so not very excited but will see how the Hype is being handled.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2009, at 7:43 PM, ifool100 wrote:

    Well, Apple can't lose - Ipod, tunes, Iphone, Islate, I-etc. They are all amazing examples of the finest technology, ergonomics, workmanship and marketing The only thing that will hurt AAPL is the loss of Steve Jobs. It seems to me, that is the real issue. Unfortunately even the healthiest won't live forever and Steve has had his share of health challenges. I think that is the only thing holding AAPL back from of $300. It's ironic, he's the reason for the stellar upside and inevitable down. I wish you the best of health in 2010 Steve!

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2009, at 2:23 PM, zawy wrote:

    Apple has made reliable and safe freeware and near-freeware available like never before. This is like the last piece of the puzzle that was needed in our computer world. No one can see where this is going and that's why it's exciting. Applications on an iTablet could end up being the only way most people interact with the internet, rarely needing a browser. Scottrade (etc), facebook, google, wikipedia, amazon, ebay...all have usable applications on the iPhone. Also, it's hard to imagine how many devices can now be combined into the iPhone and iTablet. Phone, recorder, TV, computer (keyboard, mouse, and screen), tape measure, inclinometer, bar code reader with price checking, games, calculator (only those over 30 understand this one), weather reports, radio, notepad, contacts (remember the 1st Palm?), email (remember the blackberry?), mp3 player. BOOKS and MOVIES. There's a good chance it will come with an LED projector for a good 20 inch screen. Netflix (in 3 yrs), amazon (in 2 yrs) ninetindo (in 1 yr) are under threat.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2009, at 2:23 PM, zawy wrote:

    Apple has made reliable and safe freeware and near-freeware available like never before. This is like the last piece of the puzzle that was needed in our computer world. No one can see where this is going and that's why it's exciting. Applications on an iTablet could end up being the only way most people interact with the internet, rarely needing a browser. Scottrade (etc), facebook, google, wikipedia, amazon, ebay...all have usable applications on the iPhone. Also, it's hard to imagine how many devices can now be combined into the iPhone and iTablet. Phone, recorder, TV, computer (keyboard, mouse, and screen), tape measure, inclinometer, bar code reader with price checking, games, calculator (only those over 30 understand this one), weather reports, radio, notepad, contacts (remember the 1st Palm?), email (remember the blackberry?), mp3 player. BOOKS and MOVIES. There's a good chance it will come with an LED projector for a good 20 inch screen. Netflix (in 3 yrs), amazon (in 2 yrs) ninetindo (in 1 yr) are under threat.

  • Report this Comment On December 31, 2009, at 3:43 AM, Babble100 wrote:

    What people are missing here is that the iSlate will have important applications for businesses, large and small. It will be ideal for all kinds of note-taking tasks, for which iPhone is too small, laptops are too big, and Wintel tablet competitors are too clunky. Think of real estate agents keeping lists of housing inventory, Amazon clerks and used car clerks and any clerks keeping storehouse inventory, doctors updating patient reports, teachers keeping lesson plans, and on and on. The iSlate will replace the yellow lined note paper tablet for a huge range of purposes. And it will be internet connected of course - hooking into master databases and information sources that enable such tasks to be done with a 1000% productivity increase. The App Store system provides the perfect channel for developing custom apps for every business.

    A big fat juicy opportunity.

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