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Rumor: The Billion Dollar Tablet

Source: Piper Jaffray
Source: Piper Jaffray

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes the rumored Apple (s aapl) tablet will be much more than a lifestyle product for the presbyopic generation. Instead, Munster expects as many as two million tablets could be sold in 2010, generating an estimated 1.2 billion in revenue.

Via Apple 2.0, Munster’s latest research also predicts a 2010 release. “Last week we spoke with an Asian component supplier that has received orders from Apple for a touch-screen device to be fulfilled by late CY09.” While this supports earlier reports, the most recent suggested timeframe is 2009.

As for the tablet itself, as the mock-up suggests, Munster apparently believes a giant iPod touch is in the offing. The tablet will be designed for media consumption, web surfing, and text tasks, like simple email. Pricing is expected to be in the $500 to $700 range, considerably less than previous estimates of $800. The tablet will likely have a 3G data plan, possibly subsidized, carriers being AT&T (s att) or Verizon (s vz). All this makes Munster bullish on the tablet, “While at first glance this may appear to address a niche market, we believe the addressable market is larger than that of the Apple TV, of which Apple sold about 1.2m in its first year.”

And this is where we stop the prediction train and get off. That last bit about 1.2 million Apple TVs being sold is, like much of this research note, speculation. Sales numbers for the Apple TV have never been released (not a good sign). The only official commentary on sales came during the first quarter conference call this year when Tim Cook stated that “unit sales were up over three times versus the year-ago quarter.” Three times what has never been established.

However, a comparison to the Apple TV is relevant to the tablet as a cautionary tale. Sadly, by refusing to add a DVD player or streaming options from services like Netflix (s nflx) and Hulu, the Apple TV languishes as nothing more than extension of the iTunes Store in the living room. If the Apple tablet turns out to be a giant iPod touch — hopefully better looking that that horrid mock-up — it risks being nothing more than extension of the App Store. That’s not as bad as the Apple TV, but the tablet could do better.

One rumor we have not heard anything about is whether the tablet will allow a Bluetooth keyboard. If so, an entire category of functionality would be added, from emails of more than a few sentences to papers and reports pages long. In your hand it’s a tablet, in a stand it’s a word processor. While there could be a risk of cannibalizing MacBook sales, it seems small. Assuming the tablet runs iPhone OS, the current limitations of the operating system would ensure the safety of MacBook sales.

The question whether the Apple tablet will truly be an alternative to the netbook or a giant iPod touch will likely be answered soon. One can only hope the reply can be typed.

19 Responses to “Rumor: The Billion Dollar Tablet”

  1. rickdude

    I seriously hope there’s no data plan, or that at least it’s optional. I’d be happy connecting only when I have wi-fi, and using it as an e-book reader/iPod the rest of the time. One thing that concerns me is how difficult it will be to port existing iPhone/iPod touch apps.

  2. Skelly Rocker

    OK – laying down my bet – it’s going to be the new iMac – or iMac Portable – or iMac Air.

    Big enough screen to use as a desktop – probabaly 12″ / 13″ – proabably OLED
    Control directly through the screen – with USB for optional keyboard and mouse
    Full featured OSX with iPhone mode to allow using iPhone apps
    Technology based on the MacBook Air – so it won’t have a super drive and only limited connectivity (2 USB, headphone, mic, maybe a miniDVI out)
    Solid State 32 or 64 GB harddrive
    Maybe additional two handed gestures for navigation
    Comes with a stand to use as a monitor or slide down into a typing pad


  3. Richard Overall

    I think the big use of this will actually be in the home. As a front end to a media centre it will be brilliant as a remote to control videos players, PLEX etc, and then another customised screen with keyboard and touchpad to surf on safari.

  4. Angus Dei

    I can’t wait for this device. My iPhone’s screen is too small for me – I find surfing on the thing a miserable experience – as is the keyboard – I hit wrong letters more than right ones. I worry about the screen size being too large though. My old Newton 110 and 120 were the perfect size.

    Oh, and I hope you can use a stylus with it. If so, every aspiring artist and designer would HAVE to have it. I took notes on my Newtons in graduate school, and it was wonderful. I’d hook it up to my laser printer when I got home and print the notes out. Just the four-step process – writing, proofing, printing, re-reading – made me retain a lot more of the lectures. If you could do that with this new tablet, it would be… um… re-evolutionary.

  5. There’s no need for iTouch to have a physical keyboard. If people can type as fast as they do on the iPhone, how fast do you think they could type on a full-size touch keyboard? Fast.

    Instant-on access to the internet through a touch-based OS on a large screen. Finally.

  6. The potential pros?
    – no mouse, moving things around with your index finger, like we do with the iphone
    – full-screen magazine and newspaper covers, with page-turning abilities like the hugely growing popular digital magazines. Imagine having a whole bunch of magazines at your finger tips, wirelessly downloaded, and with the page-turning affects and sounds……not to mention how cool it’d be to turn a page and have a video launch right there. Tre-cool.
    – ginormous movie screen — yes, be great with a DVD, but if not, it’ll force you to turn your DVDs into digital format stored on your tablet, and/or download from iTunes.
    – typing will be cool. I think that even without the “touch” and feel that Schell mentions above, you’d be surprised how easy it’d be and how fast you can type without pushing every key. If any of you have the newer keyboards that are low-to-the-desk, you already have noticed how easier it is on the wrists
    – games, etc….the rest of the pros and the “fun” are too long to mention

    The cons?
    – It’s got to be raised on some kind of angle at the back to make typing and reading that way easy (even if it’s a mini-3″-4″stand, it’d help)
    – has to be light in weight

    That’s it. I’m not a laptop user at all — but if I thought of enough benefits of using this, I would buy one.

  7. Phil Poccia

    I hope I could use my current iPhone data plan with this. I know it’s wishful thinking, but I am not going to pay for a iPhone and tablet data plan.

  8. I can see the benefit of this. But I have to assume that it will need a data plan that’ll make my iPhone plan look like peanuts.

    Also, it doesn’t make portability any easier because it’s can’t be used as a working person’s laptop. Being able to type well is being able to feel your place on the keyboard and type without looking (speed, accuracy, etc.). With the touch screen you have to look down – there is no feel.

    So, back to my MbP.

    Sigh. I really would love to have something like a 9 or 10 inch macbook that I can stash in my backpack and not worry about.

    • get a netbook and hackint0sh it. I’ve been enjoying my dell mini 9 for about 6 months now and love it. I got this instead of a macbook or the Air for the reason of portability (I bike) and not worrying about losing $1000 dollars if it goes missing or is broken (only cost me $400).

      It does require one to be willing to “fiddle” with hardware and software, so probably not a good option for a fanboy/regular mac user that’s used to getting everything prechewed.

      If you have ever put a computer together and installed your own OS, then this project is the best for getting a 9-10 inch netbook.

      If the speculations are true and the tablet will only have iPhone OS on it, then it’s a useless product. I guess it makes sense though if Apple doesn’t want to cannibalize their laptop sales…

    • “a useless product”

      I remember when the iPod came out… “experts” said the same thing about it (myself included).

      There will be a HUGE use for it. The question is, what will the monthly fee be, and what type of apps will be available for it. That’s what will determine how useful (and what the sales figures are) it is.

    • sorry, I should’ve clarified: useless to ME. I wouldn’t have the time of day to use it! My main rig, my netbook and my iPhone fill all my current needs: horsepower, portability, and music player/phone/pc-thingy.

      I’m sure others will find uses for it, but for many (myself included) this will not bring anything of use.

      I can probably vouch for many netbook owners (of whom there are plenty, check the sales records: biggest sales of netbooks this year, which Apple missed out on). Most current netbook owners will not find use for another semi-similar sized gadget.

      If it starts being a Kindle-killer, there may be some people jumping the Kindle ship. But it would have to be similarly priced…

      I’m willing to be proven wrong, but that’s my current opinion.


  9. I’m only just about to turn 30 but I feel old already. I just don’t “get” why one would want a giant iPod … I remain to be convinced that this would be any use at all if it doesn’t run a proper version of OS X nicely multi-touch enabled.

    Can anyone help me with what the point of a giant iPod is?

    • Multimedia. Larger screen to utilize programs (like a proper word processor).

      But since nobody knows anything yet, media speculation calling it a giant iPod Touch because that’s what’s easiest to mock up is ridiculously premature.

  10. I would buy the tablet in a heartbeat, if it came with an optional data plan. I would not buy it, if it came with a mandatory plan, even if the price was subsidized. The tablet will appeal mainly to existing iPhone users like me. I do not want to pay for a second data plan regardless of the carrier. Instead, I would want to either tether the tablet to my iPhone or trade the iPhone for an iPod Touch and then feed data into both the Touch and the Tablet through a Verizon MiFi.