Rumor Has It: Apple’s Tablet to Be Verizon Subsidized

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Now that the rumor mill has settled on October as a launch date for the still-unconfirmed Apple tablet device, it’s getting around to explaining just how said device will be sold to the public. At this rate, someone will be fondling a production model in low light and taking blurry cam photos by next Tuesday.

The Street is reporting (with a fair degree of confidence, I may add) that not only is an Apple tablet a done deal, it’s a deal done with Verizon. A source, who asked not to be named, speaking to The Street said that Verizon will indeed be offering a subsidy on the new device for customers who sign up for a mobile data plan to be used with it. Though the two companies will be working together to mitigate consumer costs, their relationship won’t be as chummy as the Apple/AT&T relationship, according to the source.

The report also asserts that the upcoming tablet has been in development for two years, but that Apple has been waiting to see if consumer desire to prod a screen with their grubby mitts would become more than just a passing fad before introducing a larger, mobile computing-oriented device. The continued success of the iPhone and iPod touch would seem to indicate that the multi-touch interface is here to stay.

The success of an Apple tablet will depend upon how useful consumers see it as being, and on what the perceived value of such a device is, considering the relatively high cost it will likely command. I’ve often expressed desire for an OS X-running tablet device in the past, but my criteria for wanting one includes it being Wacom penabled, so that I can use it for working directly with illustration programs. If, as has been suggested, the upcoming tablet uses only finger-based input and runs iPhone OS, instead of OS X, it will lose a lot of its appeal for me. Besides being better suited to e-reading, I’m not sure what else a larger format iPod touch would bring to the table that I really desperately need.

A Verizon subsidy could go a long way towards making the device more attractive, since I’d want such a device to be perpetually connected anyway. Problem is, wireless providers won’t be in a position to compensate consumers to the tune of $200 to $400 the way they can with the iPhone, since subscription fees for a data-only device will be considerably less than a voice and data plan combined. If this device is real, Apple will be treading a thin line between professional features and consumer cost, and could land themselves squarely in no-man’s-land as a result.

Photo courtesy of flickr user factoryjoe.

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