Apple is rumored to be working on something bigger than an iPod Touch, but smaller than a MacBook. Past patent applications filed by the company and whispers from contract manufacturers point to a midsize gadget with a screen of 7 to 8 inches in the works, perhaps scheduled to debut early next year. It's been variously described as a tablet-like device, a "media pad," and an iPod Touch on steroids.
But the middle ground between handheld device and traditional laptop has historically been a hard sell to mainstream consumers. Apple has some experience reinventing what were thought to be staid or failed product categories, and is known for its stringent product review process, so if anyone has potential to make something compelling for this "tweener" category, it's the company to do so.
For Apple, this could be its answer to the Netbook craze--20 million of those scaled-down PCs will be shipped to retailers this year, doubling last year's output. Apple has been fairly clear in its distaste for them, using descriptors like "junky," and the average selling price of around $400 wouldn't allow Apple to keep its margins as high as it's used to.
But there is clearly a market, particularly given the current state of the economy, for a device in that middle range between a smartphone and a laptop. Interim CEO Tim Cook recently admitted that Apple has "some interesting ideas in this space."
Let's say it does make one. What exactly should a tablet from Apple do and what kind of features does it need to sport to avoid the pitfalls of every other failed tablet PC, ultramobile PC, and mobile Internet device now gathering dust in the basements and desk drawers of early adopters?
Some suggestions: … Read more