Apple Tablet: Just Something Else to Carry

For business users, if a new Apple tablet won't replace a notebook computer, what good is it? Besides being something else to carry.

With Apple's expected tablet announcement only about 24 hours away, it's time to take a sober last look at what's likely to happen and how it might impact people who use their computers for work.

Besides the tablet, there may be other announcements as well, though we're less sure what those will be. Both PCWorld.com and our sibling site Macworld.com will be following the announcement live. And here's another look at what we do and don't know headed into the announcement.

The tablet seems primarily designed for media consumption and gaming, but should also run current iPhone applications. If you use business apps on your iPhone and long for a larger screen, then the tablet is, for you, a business device.

However, when I use my iPhone for business it is in situations where I am using 3G wireless, which the tablet isn't expected to offer. Power is another issue. If the tablet is considered to have "short battery life" it will be a non-starter for most business users.

There is also the expense: Whatever Apple charges for the tablet will likely be more than what many Windows notebooks and netbooks cost. The tablet is likely to seem "cost-effective" only when compared to a Mac portable.

My bet is business users won't immediately embrace the new tablet. That could change over time, though connectivity, battery life, and cost are likely to be ongoing issues. If the machine isn't rugged enough to survive a reasonable number of drops, that will be an issue, too.

Still, the tablet may prove an interesting platform for business software developers, at least those already on the Mac. It is not yet clear whether there will be different versions of apps for the tablet than the iPhone.

I hope there will be tablet-specific apps, because it would be nice to implement features that require more screen real estate than the iPhone offers. If all the tablet runs are iPhone apps blown up to fill the larger screen, it would be pretty depressing.

However, Apple will need to find a way of dealing with two versions of the same application,one for iPhone and the other for tablet.

This could be done by noticing what the customer is using for the download--iPhone or tablet--and sending the proper version. Alternately, tablet-only software might get its own App Store, or just appear for purchase only on the tablet and not on iPhones.

For business users, I don't expect the tablet to be a very important announcement. If all you want is an e-reader, which is becoming a business tool for some, there are better and less-expensive options available.

As for other announcements, I'd love to see iPhone 4.0 software released, but am not expecting it. It would be nice if Apple could do this as a way to make the current iPhone more competitive with the Droid and Nexus One.

Of course, in the real world, neither the Droid nor the Googlephone are as yet a threat to the iPhone, so Apple is certainly not forced to react right away. From Cupertino's perspective, a June launch for new hardware and an updated OS may be quite soon enough.

Carrier announcement? I have given up trying to figure this one out. I think the decisions have been made, but no one is talking. Will AT&T lose exclusivity? Probably. Will it be announced tomorrow? Perhaps.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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