Interest in Apple’s upcoming tablet computer, which is widely expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, has reached fever pitch. Despite all the hoopla, there are plenty of reasons why this device could go down in flames.
Apple is hardly the first to release a computer with a tablet or slate design; companies have been introducing these for years. But you can be forgiven if you don’t remember any of these, because they have all bombed.
OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Some tablets have found markets in certain niche areas, such as hospitals. But consumers haven’t shown the slightest interest in them.
The reason for this are obvious: a slate computer has all the disadvantages of a notebook plus all the disadvantages of smartphone. Like a laptop, it is much too big and heavy to fit in a pocket, so it’s a drag to carry around. Like a smartphone, it has no keyboard, so text entry is a hassle. Tablets are as expensive as laptops but offer the same feature set as a smartphone.
If you think about it, a tablet is a laptop that, in order to make it smaller and lighter, the designers took out one of user’s favorite features: the keyboard. Or you could consider it a smartphone the size of a phonebook.
Apple has a long history of releasing devices that create their own markets. Before the iPod came out, very few people had MP3 players. Before the iPhone, few consumers had a smartphone. So that fact that no one wants a tablet now doesn’t mean that the same will be true in three months.
If and when the iSlate is released. expect a raft of TV and magazine ads to appear, extolling the virtues of this new product. Apple has been very successful in convincing millions of people who never wanted a smartphone before to get an iPhone in this way.
But there’s more to it than just advertising. An important reason the iPhone and iPod have sold very well is because Apple made them compelling devices that do what their users want, quickly and easily.
So if anyone can create a need for a slate computer among millions of consumers, and then meet that need with an exciting and useful product, it’s Apple.