What to do when no one manufacturer seems capable of building the gadget of your dreams? Why not engage in a little wish fulfillment about the most secretive company in all of the tech business?
For several weeks now, people have been speculating, and in some cases obsessing, about the possibility of Apple building some kind of tablet computer. Other vendors have tried and failed to deliver this kind of Internet-connected, touchscreen device -- witness, for example, Microsoft's doomed Smart Displays and equally wretched "Ultra Mobile PC" concepts, Sony's long-forgotten Airboard or Nokia's somewhat-more-practical N810.
Could be the iPhone company get this concept right? When you don't know anything specific about an upcoming device, anything seems possible. The Mac news site TidBits parodied this with a list of fake Apple-tablet rumors (e.g., "I heard the Apple Tablet's back will be covered in solar panels and can recharge a Prius in 2 hours.").
In the same way, PC World writer Michael Scalisi felt free to dismiss this hypothetical device as "a train wreck," based only on his understanding of what it would feature.
The discussion got a little more specific today, when the Wall Street Journal's Yukari Iwatani Kane reported that Apple is working to build a tablet under the exacting direction of founder and chief executive Steve Jobs.
Just a few months after Steve Jobs had a liver transplant, the Apple Inc. chief executive is once again managing even the smallest details of his company's products, this time focused on a new tablet device.
Since his return in late June, the 54-year-old has been pouring almost all of his attention into a new touch-screen gadget that Apple is developing, said people familiar with the situation.
But even the WSJ's story leaves plenty of room for interpretation and imagination -- all of which could turn out to be incorrect, since Jobs could apparently still decide to send this effort back into the lab.
Here's all that I will predict about an Apple tablet -- or an Apple netbook, which would fill a demonstrated need in the market:
1) Apple will price this thing at a level that seems borderline absurd next to existing hardware.
2) It will include at least one feature that most people had never thought to ask for.
3) It will leave out at least one feature that most people had considered essential.
4) Press coverage of its launch will feature at least one skeptical quote from an executive at a competing company that the quoted party may regret later.
5) People will line up in front of Apple's stores to buy it.
6) Buyers will be happy enough about their purchase that they will choose to overlook a missing capability or a performance issue.
7) The second version of the device will work a lot better than the first.
There's also the possibility that we're all wrong about this Apple tablet rumor, and that Apple's venture into the "tablet space" will continue to be its well-established, quite popular iPod touch.
Are you looking to buy some sort of intermediate device between a smartphone and a laptop for Internet access, or do you already own one and call it a netbook?
August 25, 2009; 1:36 PM ET
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