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Would an Apple Tablet be an Ereader? Yes and No.

Last Friday the latest round of rumors of an Apple Tablet swelled considerably after a piece from Apple Insider asserted the device is now on the 2010 product roadmap:

However, the past six months have reportedly seen the critical pieces fall into place. Jobs, who’s been overseeing the project from his home, office and hospital beds, has finally achieved that much-sought aura of satisfaction. He’s since cemented the device in the company’s 2010 roadmap, where it’s being positioned for a first quarter launch, according to people well-respected by AppleInsider for their striking accuracy in Apple’s internal affairs.

That means that the device, which is expected to retail for somewhere between the cost of a high-end iPhone and Apple’s most affordable Mac notebook, is bound to turn up any time between January and March, should there be no last minute setbacks. Analyst’s following the Cupertino-based company may consider factoring first full-quarter sales of the device into their models for calendar Q2.

The news sparked considerable interest among publishers, who apparently see this development as a “Kindle killer” that will upset Amazon’s apparent dominance of the ebook ecosystem. It’s understandable from the perspective of a publisher, but if this device actually exists, it’s doubtful anyone at Apple sees it as an “ereader” any more than it sees the iPhone as “a GPS device.” (The speculation stems from a piece in the Financial Times quoting an anonymous “publishing executive” and saying Apple has been talking to publishers.) Apple also talked to major newspapers before the iPhone launched, but they didn’t build the iPhone as a mobile newspaper.

Some have been speculating about whether Apple would ink deals with aggregators like OverDrive or Ingram Digital to secure ebook content for a tablet. But that assumes that Apple sees a need to directly deal with ebooks the way they deal with music, and I don’t believe that’s likely. While it’s possible they’d beef up the native PDF capabilities in a larger device, I think it’s much more likely they’ll establish the market (the App Store) and the platform (some variant on the iPhone SDK), and let developers and content creators take care of the rest, the way they have already on the iPhone with games.

Seeking Alpha has a nice analysis of Tablet Fever, and correctly places any discussion of news or books in the context of the App Store, where it firmly belongs:

Steve Jobs has mentioned that he has never seen anything like success of the App Store in his career. If he is saying that, then I’m saying that this 9.7 inch iTouch that has been designed to optimally utilize the apps will become the flagship Apple product… The order of operations for the iPhone are phone first, iPod second, Apps third, and Internet browser fourth. This new iTouch is principally designed to take advantage of the App Store gaming, books, news, entertainment, social networking, etc…

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  • bowerbird

    andrew said:
    > Yes and No.

    well, i guess that answers that!

    next question…

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.mobiliciuoz.com mobiliciouz

    NO. Apple does a lot of search before launching a product. The tablet will not only be a”Kindle killer” but maybe an Xbox-PS3-Killer? Imagine the kind of games one can develop for the tablet? Adding books to the itunes/appstore will only make apple even stronger. (((www.mobiliciouz.com)))

  • http://islandinthenet.com Khürt Williams

    To succeed the product would need serve a more general audience. Talks about Kindle killing and Xbox-PS3 are short sightned. The iPhone and iPod Touch are more than just a phone or media player. It is a general purpose handheld/mobile computing device.

  • http://www.smallsoftware.co.uk Richard Hughes

    > Amazon’s apparent dominance of the ebook ecosystem

    That would be the US ebook ecosystem presumably, as the Kindle isn’t available outside the US.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    It’s not book readers that have to worry, it’s low-end PC’s:

    - iPod: majority of profits in music players
    - Intel Mac: majority of profits in high-end PC’s
    - iPhone: majority of profits in smartphones
    - tablet: majority of profits in low-end PC’s

    The Apple tablet will unquestionably be a general purpose device with 2 3rd party application environments: open HTML5 Web apps and proprietary CocoaTouch native apps, just like iPod touch and iPhone. With a full-size screen it competes against Windows notebooks and netbooks and tablets. Apple probably only has to get 20% of the market to get 51% of the profits.