Analyst forecasts Apple Kindle-killer for 2010
We think he's onto something
Apple may have a downer on netbooks, but that won't stop it releasing a 7-10in tablet in the coming months, one analyst has forecast. It's some way off, though.
Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster is a long time Apple watcher well known among the firms fans for his product predictions. His latest, made in a research note sent out to investor clients and reported by the Times today, is a little more cautious than usual: Munster reckons the tablet won't appear until H1 2010.
He says it will cost between $500 and $700.
Munster's pitch is that the product would compete not so much with netbooks but with the e-book readers like Amazon's kindle. We think he might have something there.
While we're not taking Apple's rejection of netbooks as gospel - company executives have rubbished product types before, only to release an Apple version months later - but a tablet fits in rather better with Apple's general product strategy and other offerings.
The e-book reader market is nascent, so there's room for Apple to get in there with a product that shows 'how it should be done', much as it did with the music and, later, movie handheld player markets.
Reg Hardware Artist's impression
As the MacBook Air shows, Apple has the design and engineering nous to come up with a device way sexier than any other e-book reader. And its iPhone work has shown it how to make such a gadget work without a keyboard, something UMPCs failed to do, which is why netbooks proved so popular when they were not.
As the iPod Touch shows, Apple wouldn't limit its tablet to e-books - we'd expect it to be a web browser, music and movie player and games gadget too. But Apple could easily extend iTunes to deliver text downloads as well as the many forms of content you can already but there.
So why wait until 2010? If Munster's right, and that's what Apple is doing, the manufacturer is clearly waiting for better, more power efficient screen, processor and battery technology. Getting a bigger Touch working well requires a colour display but to compete with Kindle and Sony's Reader it would need a comparable battery life. CPU technology can help too, by incorporating more features - graphics in particular - currently implemented on separate chips.
So far, e-book reader sales have been tiny, so Apple's not losing a lot by waiting.
It shouldn't wait too long, however. Register Hardware has already had indications that other vendors - netbooks makers like Asus, in particular - are eyeing this market.
Which processor might it use? It's tempting to look at Intel's evolving Atom series, which is expected to make big strides forward in the performance-per-Watt stakes when the next-gen models launch in the early 2010 timeframe. Is that what Apple's waiting for?
But the iPhone heritage equally points to ARM for its low-power architecture - and also because Apple's own chip design initiatives, born out of the acquisition of PA Semi, point in that direction.
And this product in no way means Apple won't do a mini laptop too.
Macworld Expo 2010 in January 2010 is going to be an interesting show, we think... ®
Beat me to it - I was going to suggest a double sided device too. Or how about the e-ink display is inside the cover for the LCD, or som'at like that.
Get it right!
Current-generation netbooks show a sad lack of imagination: they're no more than an updated return to the laptops of 15 years ago, before the era of "desktop replacement". Smartphones and e-readers have given us much more that's interesting.
The logical update now is a reasonably-capable netbook-size device with a couple of major differences from the eee-clones: e-ink display, ARM processor, and solid-state storage. And with that, decent battery life on a much lighter-weight battery. Apple seems a plausible candidate to be first to market with such a thing.
As for gaming and videos, I don't give a **** if an e-ink screen isn't up to the task. It'll remind me of my first 15" colour laptop back in 1997: the display fell well short of the current macbook's!
If I was a clever design person I would produce a table that has an oled display on one side, an e-ink display on the other and sleeve for it to fit in so you could swap round which side you used so that it automatically turned off the side hidden in the sleeve.
Screens and reading
Screens can do more than one thing. They can be bright for one application and more subdued for others, the technology exists it just takes software. You can do it right now yourself if you like, go ahead and play with your video card settings. Having that automated by software is something games have been doing for years.
As for painful to read, not really. Adobe's own book reading software, which is a version of it's PDF reader, comes with a font specifically designed to make reading easier on the eye. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that ebooks use a version of this font or something very similar.
Netbooks seem to be the biggest threat to these devices right now. Book reading software already exists and is hardly processor or battery intensive. Books in formats compatible with that software are at least as easy to find that books for Kindle or Sony's reader.
But I agree with the author, Apple are in a position to really clean up here and do the same thing they did to the Sony Walkman. Their MP3 player wasn't the first player on the market, but it was clearly the best. The price was definitely premium, but their sales have shown there's a huge market for quality that comes at a premium price. And they can easily do the same with something that is significantly more capable than a book reader. A large screen portable media player is something travelers in their millions are crying out for. Just look at the rental sales of portable DVD players at airports. With browsing, book reading, music and whatever else built in to the OS, those portable DVD players would become as obsolete as a book reader that can only.. well read books really.
There are rumors of an OLED display iPhone coming out later this year. If true then Apple would have over a year's experience with it before releasing a Kindle killer. Would this type of display fix all of the battery and resolution problems?