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Will Apple’s Tablet save books, newspapers and end global warming?

January 25, 2010

Not the iSlate.

Sheesh. Change the world once (with the personal computer), people expect you to do it again. Change it twice (with the iPod), you’re infallible. Do it three times (the iPhone), some people start to offer prayers and read the entrails of goats for sign of what miracle you’re planning  next.

Apple is set to unveil it’s long-awaited and much discussed Tablet e-reading device on Wednesday. Apple acolytes expect it to do for electronic publishing what the iPod did for music: Perfect an already existing technology, bring coherence to a culture/entertainment industry in chaos, and show how to turn a failing market into a thriving e-commerce.

An even bigger miracle: Some rumors say the Tablet may actually be designed to save newspapers and magazines. How cooly ironic would that be? The most innovative major digital electronics corporation riding to the rescue for the imperiled damsel of Old Media?

Will Apple actually perform these wonders? Nobody knows. As Computerworld says, “Apple keeps secrets better than the former Soviet KGB, so nothing is certain until the words spill out of their executives’ mouths.”

That doesn’t stop the Geek World (increasingly indistinguishable from the world at large) from endless speculation, digging up rumors and passing them back and forth like cousins regifting Grandma’s fruitcake.

In fact, blogging about potential Apple products has grown into an industry all its own. I was astounded to hear an NPR interview a few months ago with a blogger who makes a living doing nothing, day after day, except writing up rumors on Apple product development.

As a journalist, let me say: The amount of money that could attract me to such a job does not exist. I’d rather dig ditches. In fact, this is a kind of ditch-digging — the same ditch every day.

We don’t even know what the new gadget will be called. It’s been termed the Apple Tablet in almost all news or blogger coverage for the past year or more, but as Gizmodo.com says, it might also be unveiled as “iSlate” (actually a groovy name, with connotations of one-room school houses and ancient Greek philosophy schools), or iPad (“Oh God help us,” groans Gizmodo).

The Tablet (or whatever it’s called) is expected to be a large format device with a screen as big as 15 inches. Or not. Maybe 7 inches. Or Apple will roll out a 7-incher, and followed, by and by, with a 10-incher.

The Tablet will almost certainly advance e-reader technology, putting the Kindle and similar devices in the shade, in the way the iPhone revolutionized the smart phone. It should be able to run multiple applications simultaneously, and handle multimedia with ease – music, video, gaming, magazines and newspapers, in addition to books.

Apple’s App Store will be a big part of the roll out, NPR says (stating the obvious). So will the iTunes store, where Apple already sells audio books.

How much will it cost? $700. Or maybe $500. Or $2,000. Whatever the initial pricing, it’s a number that’s sure to plummet within the first year. Remember how much an iPhone cost in the beginning? Thank God for those dolts known as “early adopters.”

One calmer voice in the rumor wars, PC World, says “the speculation has started to be reeled in, with the device now sounding more like what it first it sounded like: A giant iPod touch.” Whoo and, uh, hoo?

What do you think? Will the Tablet (or iSlate or iPad) usher in a golden age of e-books, save newspapers and magazines, bring world peace, cure cancer, solve cold fusion, enable the Cubs to win the World Series and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    January 25, 2010 1:52 pm

    I love your columns, Chauncey Mabe. “Like cousins regifting Grandma’s fruit cake”–so so funny.

    And 15 inches, or 7 inches, or 10–I guess size does matter.

    As for what they call it–I like iSlate the best.

    As for the coming revolution comprised of world peace, the cancer cure, and the savior of magazines and newspapers–I can only say I sure hope so.

    The IT business brought us out of recession in the 1990s. Who knows? Maybe that will happen again. I’m hopeful.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 25, 2010 2:20 pm

      And you know, though it may shock faithful readers of this blog, so am I. Since about mid-December, I’ve had this irrational notion that 2010 will be a good year for all of us. I’m clinging to that despite Haiti, the Massachusetts special election and the Supreme Court. Every day in every way I’m getting better and better. And why not? Optimism is free.

      As for the iSlate (or whatever it’ll be called), I’m cautiously hopeful. I’m especially impressed with rumors that Apple has been in talks with newspapers and book publishers. If Apple can save Old Media (even on a New Media platform), than I will be dancing in the streets (figurately: No one wants to see me dance). If it can whittle Amazon down to size, I’ll do back handsprings (in my imagination).

      • Candice Simmons permalink
        January 25, 2010 2:44 pm

        Oh, come on….dance, dance, dance….

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    January 25, 2010 3:19 pm

    In the words of the immortal Tom T. Hall:

    I can’t dance and I’m feelin’ so good, yeah
    Some of us can, some of us can’t
    Some of us wish that they could dance
    I can’t dance
    I guess I’m just one of the unfortunate few
    So just for a little bit, Baby I’ll come out and dance with you

  3. Karla permalink
    January 25, 2010 3:29 pm

    I hope it helps save newspapers, but I will new own one. I like reading my books the old fashioned way. and that will never change.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 25, 2010 4:19 pm

      Me, too. I will always surround myself with books. But never is a long time. I once said I’d never own a cell phone, and look how that turned out.

  4. rachel permalink
    January 25, 2010 3:57 pm

    Yes, Chauncey Mabe, I find you pretty humorous too: “That doesn’t stop the Geek World (increasingly indistinguishable from the world at large)…”

    Also I like the picture. And the caption. I believe that apple will do something better than the iPad. They are smart and inventive and creative and I think that as a company they have some of the best packaging and advertising and design that I’ve ever seen.

    I hope that I can latch onto your hopes about the good this will do. Like Karla I highly doubt that I’ll ever own one, but if they can use technology to save the things I love about the world then more power to them.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 25, 2010 4:22 pm

      I don’t want to be too hard on the PC, as I used one happily for years, and I have a soft spot for John Hodgman, who plays the “PC” character on the Apple commercials, but I have to say that my experience with the MacBook, since I switched to Apple last summer, makes me think Apple can indeed beat the Kindle at its own game.

  5. Candice Simmons permalink
    January 25, 2010 5:12 pm

    You think Apple is truly the “forbidden fruit”?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 25, 2010 6:27 pm

      Nah. It was pomegranate. Or maybe figs. Hence the phrase, “I don’t give a fig.”

  6. January 26, 2010 8:49 am

    Who should get my e-book? Who would everyone pick?

  7. January 26, 2010 8:51 am

    Apple for my e-book for sure.

  8. Connie permalink
    January 26, 2010 9:29 am

    I admit I’m intrigued by the Tablet, but honestly, who on EARTH would buy one in its first incarnation? Remember the iPhone, people…but listen, I’m all for saving the newspaper industry, such as it is. And as a PC user – solely because I have to have a PC to interact with the system at work – I have to agree that Apple can absolutely upset Kindle’s, uh, apple cart.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 26, 2010 12:23 pm

      You have my sympathies, Connie, for being tied to the cumbersome PC universe. For the first 15 years of the digital age, I stayed with Microsoft, Internet Explorer and all that jazz for the same purpose. I did not, you will be interested to hear, switch to Apple until after falling in the Battle to Save the Sun Sentinel. So my wish for you is to continue using a PC for many years to come.

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