Phones Down, Tablets to Go

While much of the Apple tablet coverage is, at this point, speculation and rumor, I think it’s reasonable to believe that Apple will release a tablet or tablet-like device.  And I think it’s a good bet that when it does, the Apple tablet will revolutionize the tablet space the way the iPhone forever changed the mobile phone universe.

In other words, the only train wreck I predict is a traffic jam created by the train loads of people lining up outside the Apple stores to buy one.  Or two or three.  I can envision- and embrace- a world where the Apple tablet simultaneously turns the tablet, music and Kindle markets on their respective heads.  I’m particularly hoping Apple can find a way to knock the Kindle off the top of the mountain, and bring choice, price sanity and color into the game.  The hard part will be getting the publishers onboard, but if anyone can do it, Apple can.

For $800 or so, I will buy one the day they are available.  To the extent I can replace both my tablet, my over-priced 1984-stealing Kindle and maybe a music player or two with a single device, I’ll be happy.  Integrated wireless broadband is a must.  To the extent Apple does the only sane thing and avoids tying me to a single wireless carrier, I’ll be really happy.  To the extent I can do all of that for something less- maybe $500- I might buy one for my kids.

But there are a few hills to climb on the journey from strategy to implementation.

First, Apple has to decide which side of the fence the OS will land on- iPhone or Mac.  It’s odd, but the Mac has become the weak-point in Apple’s line up.  I can’t imagine ever using a mobile phone other than an iPhone.  Apple TV is an elegant, fun and much under-marketed device that could easily replace a more traditional television service (for one monthly DirecTV payment, I could buy all 5 seasons of The Wire for my Apple TV).  While I use my Mac occasionally, the fact is that it doesn’t do a lot of stuff as well, or cheaply, as my PC.  The cloud will help, but not enough.  I hope the Apple tablet experience is more iPhone-like and less Mac-like.

This would mean that either iPhone apps will need to work on the Apple tablet, or Apple will have to make it harder for developers, by asking or requiring them to develop for separate platforms.  I’m betting- and hoping- for the former.  There’s very little I need done that can’t be done on an iPhone.  Only the screen size holds me back.

Second, Apple needs to walk the music walk and create a good sound.  I don’t think you can do that with integrated speakers on a small device, so that means Apple will need to develop and either include or offer good, affordable external speakers.  And a remote control.  iPodish docking devices would be another option, but I want the tablet to be the device- not support the device, so I want good external speakers.

Finally (and here comes my sermon again), Apple needs to completely trash the current iTunes application and build a good one from scratch.  iTunes is both the control panel and traffic cop for Apple’s audio video content.  And it sucks.  Completely and utterly.  Even the stripped down Apple TV interface is better than iTunes.  I realize this isn’t going to happen- especially if the “this year” rumors are true regarding the tablet.  But iTunes needs to go, and the sooner the better.

If they play their cards even halfway right, Apple can own the tablet space.  There are some issues to address, but I’m not going to bet against Apple.

Not again.