Can Apple succeed where all others have failed by freeing the tablet from niche status?

“Apple may be at the forefront of a renewed effort to bring back the tablet. Electronics manufacturers across the tech landscape are hard at work on their own versions of these flat-screen computers that let users input information via touchscreen rather than keyboard,” Olga Kharif reports for BusinessWeek.

“‘There’s no hotter topic [than tablets] in Asia right now,’ says Richard Doherty, a director at market researcher Envisioneering Group, who says Apple has developed prototypes of two different tablet machines—one that resembles a large-sized iPod and boasts a 6-inch screen, and another that features a larger display. Apple may launch one or both devices as early as September, Doherty says. A decision on whether and when Apple takes the tablet plunge lies with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Doherty says,” Kharif reports.

“Regardless of what Jobs decides, tablets are in the works elsewhere, including at Nokia, the world’s largest maker of cell phones, and TechCrunch, a popular tech blog and information provider,” Kharif reports.

MacDailyNews Take: That TechCrunch tablet thing (CrunchPad) is just plain weird (unless it’s a publicity stunt, in which case it’s genius). If it’s real, the weirdness lies not the actual tablet so much (which, last we heard, sounds too heavy, among other things, to fly), but the maker(s). We’re not sure the comfort level is there for prospective buyers. We’d launch our own tablet, but, alas, we’re cursed with too much sense.

Kharif continues, “Electronics makers Archos and Asus began selling new tablets earlier this year. And industry analysts say other makers of PCs, cell phones, and consumer electronics are quietly designing tablets aimed at mainstream consumers.”

“All these tablet hopefuls hope to succeed in an area where many tech titans have stumbled. Tablets have taken off in narrow niches, such as construction and nursing,” Kharif reports. “But several other tech stalwarts, including Microsoft have failed to generate widespread enthusiasm for tablets. Sony and Fujitsu released tablets in years past, only to phase them out later. In some cases, the devices were too expensive; in others they were awkward to handle. “Price was part of the story, and it wasn’t quite so elegantly done,” says Roger Kay, founder of consultant Endpoint Technologies Associates. Last year, U.S. tablet sales fell by 15% to 711,000 units amid the global recession, according to consultant IDC. They began to recover in the second quarter of 2009, thanks to an influx of federal stimulus money going into industries such as health care, where tablets are used.”

Kharif reports, “So what’s different this time around? Price, for starters. Apple’s tablet may cost as little as $679, Doherty says. Then there’s the Apple software mystique. ‘Apple has a real opportunity to take the magic of the iPhone interface and give that more real estate to do the tasks,’ Kay says. ‘It’s an iPhone, but bigger. It’s something that you know, but bigger.’ The device may be able to wirelessly access iTunes and Apple’s App Store, which offers more than 65,000 apps such as games, e-books, and calendars.”

Kharif reports, “One of Apple’s prototype devices is able to run all Mac applications, and allows for video and audio editing and graphic animation, Doherty says.”

MacDailyNews Take: Which backs up our source.

Kharif continues, “Another, which looks like a larger iPod, lends itself to watching videos, playing games, and reading e-books.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

30 Comments

  1. Apple for sure can succeed, please just make it by default readable outside. Being in the construction industry this was the biggest fault of my beloved HP TC1100 and TC1000 slates. They were great and should have been improved on rather than taken off the market. Apple will do a great job, please just bring it to market soon!

  2. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There is nothing wrong with a niche market. What matters is the bottom line. If a company making netbooks makes a profit, why would you care that it’s a niche market? Granted, you always want to grow, but that is not always a key to success. Would you rather be BMW or GM right now? One is making money, one is losing money.

  3. Look, when Jobs is done visiting the burning bush, and comes down from the mountain with not one, but TWO tablets, we will know for certain that Apple’s tablets will break any niche.

  4. Apple is still a niche player. Then again Sonia BMW, Mercedes, etc. The trick is to not create a product that becomes a niche within a niche, like the MacBook Air. A tablet that doesn’t run full blown OS X is a niche. Who really needs a bigger iPod Touch or iPhone?

  5. I really do not believe Apple is releasing a tablet type thing. I just don’t see the market for one. And two, it would slow their momentum in the marketplace if it’s just a ho hum prpduct.

    Now the product might be very cool. But as I said the market is not clamoring for a tablet. Only “tech experts” and “business experts”. And all these people are the ones that keep telling Apple Inc what it needs to be successful all these years. And they have not been right even once. They all STILL think Apple needs to do “x”.

    The market time is not ready for a tablet. Will it ever be? Maybe. But it’s no at this time. Apple I think knows this.

  6. If you make a better product it will sell. I see the iPad as a niche product with a LOT of potential and a Kindle killer. Remeber Jobs said that he thought the Kindle sucked so imagine a table that allows you to turn pages by swiping the screen? A lot will depend on Apps but Apple has found a profitable way to sell Apps and the Tablet will be the same. The delay is prob because Steve changed something to the design or user interface

  7. I hate the word tablet, it’ll be the iBook, the new iBook and as one commentator stated, “It’ll be a Kindle on steroids.” A reader combined with a usable/reliable “netbook.”

    It will be a truly lightweight, extremely portable device that can either be connected to a larger screen or attached to a desktop/laptop for downloading, etc.

    It’s primary use will be for reading, light computer use and unlimited surfing –and virtual keyboard. For students it will permit all of his/her textbooks to be in one easy to read/use device, with word search, cut & paste, taking notes and writing papers — and for more involved work it will connect to a full computer.

    Same for most professionals who do not need a full laptop to transport around with everything on it — instead a super portable device that will do what is needed on a short trip but with full access to files, etc. on the office computer.

    While it will be usable as a laptop, it will function more of an accessory to and fully integrated with a full fledged computer.

    Next month is unrealistic, not only for the actual hardware, but more time is needed to get publishers on board, especially for textbooks. Books will be the key — after all, it won’t be called the iBook for nothing. If people went crazy over having their music libraries at their fingertips, what do you think will happen if they can have their book libraries (and books take up much less storage) at their fingertips.

    Augmenting storage will be the coming “cloud” that will continue to grow.

  8. Tablets are news only because everyone is hoping that Apple can pull off the impossible: Make a tablet OS that doesn’t suck and put it on chic sexy hardware.
    Wait, that’s what Apple does best.
    It’s just impossible for everyone else.

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