Apple Resellers Expecting Big Things From Tablet
Apple resellers may not be the most unbiased group, but most believe that whatever product emerges from Apple's Jan. 27 press conference will be fundamentally different from anything currently on the market. That's one reason why Michael Oh, founder and president of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple reseller, disagrees with the widely held notion that Apple's tablet will be something akin to an outsized iPhone.
"One mistake people make when analyzing Apple is to frame future moves based on what other vendors have done in the past," Oh says. "Apple has a solid laptop and desktop computing platform, and they've turned the mobility market upside down with mobility apps. They may have concluded that the merging of these two worlds is the way to go."
Tablet PCs haven't had much success in their past iterations, but at CES 2010 last week, Microsoft showed off a trio of Windows 7-powered touch screen "slate" devices from HP, Pegatron and Archos. Although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer avoided hyping the slate devices too much, the rapid adoption of netbooks has apparently convinced Microsoft and its OEM partners to take another crack at the tablet market.
Nick Gold, sales manager at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore, Md.-based Apple VAR, believes there's plenty of room for a tablet to fill the usability gaps that exist between current smartphones and notebooks. "A laptop doesn't offer the experience of an elegant digital note pad with Internet access, nor does an iPhone serve for anything but the tersest of notes. A tablet could potentially address this middle space quite well," he says.
Apple has always insisted it's not interested in making a netbook, but an Apple tablet could allow it to poach some of this market, particularly if it launches with a new generation of applications that are written specifically for the device. A tablet would also give Apple a horse in the race in e-readers, according to Shane Spiess, president of Portland, Ore.-based Apple reseller MacForce.
"I think it'll be a true multimedia device that can do everything a Kindle can do," says Spiess. "It'll be a success if it allows me to access basically everything I own, from magazines and books to movies and television shows, no matter where I'm at."
Apple has a massive content delivery system in iTunes, but there is a lot of content it would like to deliver that doesn't quite work on the iPhone, like video and e-books, says Tim Hassett, principal of Appogee, a Greenville, N.C.-based Apple reseller. "With the tablet, Apple can offer a portable device that can access iTunes content and nip away at Amazon's Kindle and others with a great e-book reader," he says.
Apple usually only enters markets it feels are starting to become mature, or where opportunities exist to add value where other vendors aren't. Apple's success with the iPod and iPhone have shown the wisdom of this strategy, and there's plenty of reason to believe the Apple tablet will have a similarly transformative effect, one that will likely impact more than one market.
"It stands to reason that Apple, having observed both the e-book and netbook markets, will create a product that addresses both of these niches, yet goes well beyond the current devices on the market," says Gold.