As the hours wind down before Apple's major announcement in San Francisco on Wednesday, we ask (and answer!) seven burning questions about the company's much anticipated tablet computer.
How much is it going to cost?
While industry pundits for weeks have speculated that Apple's tablet will be priced somewhere between $700 and $1,000, a report published today in the Silicon Alley Insider is quoting a well-placed source who says that the device "isn't going to cost anywhere near $1,000." In any event, expect Apple's new offering to run you significantly more than the recently unveiled Microsoft/HP Courier Tablet, which will retail later this year for less than $500. Most miniature Netbook computers also cost less than $500.
So why would I want one if I already own a Netbook?
From the Macintosh, to the iPod to the iPhone, Apple re-imagines and sets the standard for new consumer experiences on digital devices. Netbooks are essentially miniature versions of laptop computers, a category that has not experienced any meaningful innovation since the last century. As longtime Apple columnist and blogger Andy Ihnatko explains to Appolicious, the company will "make a clear and emphatic case that this new device is about as similar to any current or previous tablet as the iPhone was to any other smart phone that existed at the time."
Second, it’s all about the apps. The ecosystem of almost 130 thousand iPhone apps and tens of thousands of developers will presumably be instantly available to this device. This device, unlike a Netbook, will instantly play every app in the App Store, providing a unique experience like never before. Just as it was only possible to play Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Entertainment System a generation ago, you will only be able to access apps from an iPhone, iPod touch, or Apple's new tablet.
Will the tablet be more like an iPhone or a MacBook?
The iPhone changed everything. The tablet will also be a touchscreen device powered by tens of thousands of unique and innovative applications that can be downloaded to a 10-inch screen. Apple's application-based system of managing information like email, word processing, games and video entertainment will render traditional folders-based operating systems obsolete. Now we just need to wait and see if Apple will somehow replicate the experience of typing on a keyboard onto a touchscreen, or if the company has something else up its sleeve.
Is the Tablet meant for work, play or both?
Game developers like Electronic Arts and Gameloft are salivating at the possibilities the tablet and its 10-inch screen will provide. Notes venture capitalist Mike Murphy, who's firm Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers manages a $100 million iFund to invest in iPhone application development companies, "if you can get a larger screen size, you can put more functionality onto the home page."
Yet the tablet will not be the exclusive domain for gamers. Everyday tasks ranging from sending and receiving email, to managing your household budget, to updating the roster on your fantasy sports team will be seamlessly enhanced on the tablet.
What about reading books and magazines?
The tablet is positioned to give Amazon's Kindle a run for its money. While the Kindle revolutionized the book publishing industry by allowing consumers to access and read tens of thousands of titles on one sleek device, the tablet will contain an array of books, video games and movies that the Kindle is not equipped to handle. Magazine publishers like Esquire and GQ are already publishing iPhone-specific editions for $2.99 a pop, and are anxiously awaiting a device that will present their content in living color with all the interactive features the tablet is expected to provide.
When can I get my hands on one?
The earliest projections for when Apple will ship the tablet are for as early as March. However, it is more likely that the tablet will not be available until June or perhaps even later in the year. As was the case with the unveiling of the iPhone three years ago (which was announced in January but didn't hit stores until June), Apple is in no real rush to get its "latest creation" into the marketplace. It's not like the hype for the tablet will die down in the coming months. Moreover, added time gives third-party application developers more opportunity to come up with offerings specifically tailored to the tablet upon its release to the public.
What does all of this mean for the future of technology?
The iPhone and other smart phones that are powered by Google's Android mobile operating system make it possible for all of us to carry around the capabilities of a personal computer in our hip pockets. Those hand-held machines, however, are really just appetizers. Apple's portable tablet computer and other devices that follow in its wake will have a profound impact on virtually every facet of life and work. From early childhood education (where touchscreen application icons are literally accessible to one-year-olds), to household entertainment centers, to video-enabled professional conferences, the tablet over the next year will introduce us to new ways of being that we can barely fathom today.