Everybody expects Apple to announce the launch of a 10-inch touch-sensitive tablet next month. The device will likely look and act like a big iPod Touch, but the larger screen is obviously drawing comparisons to the Kindle, Amazon's e-book carrier. Given Apple's ability to revolutionize the music buying/listening business with iTunes and iPods, it's only reasonable for techies to wonder whether the tablet has a chance to similarly crush the online book business. Is the Kindle toast, already?
I suppose I could guess (my answer would be no) but us techie journos are still living in a fantasy world when it comes to the Apple Tablet. Nobody really has any hard information on what the product is going to look like. In fact, the one rumor resembling a datapoint is that the product could run as high as $800-900. That's an absurd amount of money -- more than most non-Apple laptops and way more than the sum of the features it offers. For that money you could buy a second-generation Kindle ($299), an iPod Touch (starts at $229) an iPhone 3G S ($199) and still have enough to pay your first month's data plan. I'm going to nod at Brian X. Chen from Wired when he writes that Apple should be looking to partner with a carrier like Verizon to subsidize the product and bring the price back toward the Kindle-plus-cheap iPod range of $500.
What could the Apple Tablet offer that the Kindle does not? An expanded iTunes would make it easier to buy books -- or even chapters of reference books the same way you can buy individual songs. A touch screen would make it easier to take notes and highlight memorable passages. The tablet would obviously have color, which would make graphs and pictures clearer and could open up a new market for e-magazine features like Scrollmotion. And Apple software wizards will surely come up with some other goshwow features that I cannot in the next two minutes. In short, I'm sure the tablet will impress, but its impression on the market is still a question of price.
This concept image of the Apple Tablet compliments of Wired.
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Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makersand the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.