Apple Tablet Odds — What We’ll See Today

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A few months back, I gave up on posting all of the various Apple Tablet rumors. There were just too many and to be honest, I was simply tired — after all, these rumors have run rampant for years. Now that I’ve caught my breath and also because it’s a foregone conclusion that Apple will indeed announce a tablet device later today, I figured I’d gather my thoughts and put my odds-making skills to the test. Some of these are no-brainer, even-money “bets” but a there’s a few long shots in the mix.

The Apple Tablet will run on a new version iPhone OS (1 – 1) — If you were expecting a slate running the full Mac OS X desktop user interface, I think you’ll be disappointed. Apple has taken what they need for mobile devices from the OS X kernel and created the iPhone OS for that. Assuming the tablet isn’t geared primarily towards productivity, an¬†upgraded¬†iPhone environment is better suited to a slate. And this of course will allow for the existing software ecosystem to expand — perhaps with little to no modification by developers of iPhone apps.

The screen size will be 10″ with a resolution of 1280 x 800 (3 – 2) — Another relatively safe bet although the device could be slightly smaller, or even come in different sizes, with different price tags to match. There’s an off-chance that the tablet runs a lower resolution, but Apple prides itself on its display capabilities. On a 10″ device, this resolution will look fantastic and since I expect it geared towards content consumption, it’s all about the display.

Expect a price point around $700 with 3G contract (3 – 2) — I think Apple would be hard pressed to sell a device of this size and scope without some type of 3G radio. Wi-Fi is a given and will be used around the home. In fact, I think this device will be used more around the house then out and about — however, it will need 3G on the run. The price point fits a gap in Apple’s product line as well. This is a complementary product, not a replacement product.

AT&T will offer iPhone tethering for the new device only (15 – 1) — OK, this is a long shot, but I’m thinking that Apple could “pair” an unsubsidized slate tablet with the iPhone for 3G connectivity. Say $40 a month and Apple gets a cut of that data revenue stream. In this case, there could be a Wi-Fi-only slate that would appeal to iPhone customers and ensure that Apple has folks using two of their devices together.

Verizon will provide connectivity for the slate — and new iPhones (4 – 1) — This is more likely scenario than the iPhone tethering possibility. Apple is leaving money on the table here in the U.S. by not offering a CDMA iPhone. I still question the strategy of offering one, but it’s possible that summer sees an iPhone for Verizon that includes an LTE radio with 3G fallback. Same with the slate — if not the first version, then perhaps the second iteration.

The Apple Tablet will not offer handwriting recognition (5 – 1) — This will dismay many longtime Tablet PC owners, but Apple won’t tread the same path at Microsoft on this one. Input through touch, voice and gestures will be the primary methods because handwriting recognition takes good software (which Apple surely has), but more importantly — powerful hardware, i.e.: x86 architecture. That leads me to what’s inside the slate.

An ARM processor will power the tablet (3 – 2) – I mentioned before that the perfect storm is here for ARM computing in the mobile space. Apple will have designed their own chip with help from others (as well as their P.A. Semi team) and bypassed Intel for the tablet. I don’t see Apple porting the iPhone OS to x86 unless they have some virtual machine or other tech that will help support the existing iPhone apps. We could see a Cortex A9 dual-core CPU at 1.5 GHz or greater.

Battery life will be in the all-day range, depending on usage (5 – 2) — Having a lower powered ARM CPU can help, but I expect we’ll hear about some tweaked battery technology as well. You’ll be able to watch at least two full length movies if not three. Web surfing will be all day and audio listening will be in the 15 to 20 hour range if you turn the display off.

Gaming will be a huge play (4 – 1) — Nintendo and Sony should be worried after today. I anticipate the tablet to be heavily marketed as a portable gaming device as well as a media consumption slate. The display paired with connectivity and a solid CPU will take the gaming experience to a new level.

E-book content will be a key factor (3 – 2) — Although Steve Jobs previously felt that people don’t read anymore, there’s too much data to refute that thought. Apple wants a piece of the e-book and digital periodical pie, so there will be several content partners involved in today’s announcement.

You’ll be able to stream iTunes and AppleTV content to the slate, possibly from the cloud (8 – 1) — Another long shot, but I see this device as both a web tablet and a mobile media powerhouse. Anything that can extend the iTunes ecosystem is money in the bank for Apple, so this device should do just that.

Those are my basic thoughts on the device and of course, there are plenty of rumors to support — or refute — what I’ve outlined. So place your bets and leave your comments and thoughts. You have just a few short hours until the gate opens and the race begins!

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