Thursday, February 5, 2009

Take a bite out of this

NOTE - Some of this was originally going to be posted before Christmas, but some information was conflicted. Not that things are crystal clear today, but cleaned up enough that I'll stick my neck out and share some obvious and not so obvious tidbits about those darn secretive Apple folks.

My little birdies are indicating to me that Apple is moving forward with finalizing a tablet/handheld device that's fitting the bill for what I've been talking about for some time now. The acquisition of the chip maker last year, combined with more mobile functionality into the forthcoming Snow Leopard have the final hardware and software pieces dropping into place to bring the new device to market in a viable form. Hardware designs for the device have been mostly stable in terms of screen size, rough dimensions and battery since last summer/fall.

This is all coming to a head as a new version of the iPhone is in early trials and readied for launch - though specs of this device are hard to nail down. Most of the "biggies" are in the tablet and for good reason, its running the new OSX, while the iPhone isn't. (but the OSX for the iPhone is also getting bumped, but its still not REALLY OSX)

Even with an upgraded CPU and RAM, the new iPhone still is going to show some sluggishness that currently frustrate users of the 3G that's selling like hot cakes. Still no factory option keyboard in sight for either units, but the new tablet will have support for bluetooth devices and possibly sport a single USB port, so take that for what it is. Nothing yet for iPhone input support, which I think would go a long way to make the units more usable, but Steve's been adamant about this almost to a fault.

Also on the network side is the imbedded mobile network capabilities in the tablet. Several technologies have been in trials, and the thought behind the final incorporation will be similar to Amazon's Kindle in terms of being bundled with the unit. (but for basic services, additional fees could apply) No word yet as to who the carrier is, but if AT&T wants in, some think that they might give on their original iPhone deal to get more of Apple's lovin'. This would be odd since technically the tablet's data services would end up costing less than equal services for the iPhone in this model, so I'm suspect on this info. That said, I think there's a lot of opportunity here for Apple to really change the rules of the game. Lots of issues with the antenna - mostly around cosmetics/location with the aluminum chasis.

The other rumbling was about pricing. A $99 price point for the iPhone has been in market viability presentations, and with subscriber fee underwriting, this is more than doable. However, I think Apple will split the difference with any new hardware, though a revamped $99 version of the current 3G has been/is being considered for that holy grail price point since it will be old generation technology once the new phone is announced. Tablet pricing is in the $499 target range. (ho hum - nothing new there ... probably low IMHO)

Of note were meetings on functionality restrictions where heated discussions took place between the two product teams, mostly from the iPhone folks who felt their blessed device is getting the back seat to the new tablet. Ah, politics. And I particularly liked the comment about the Axiotron Modbook - "Not a bad hack considering, but I hope they're banking every dollar their making 'cause their business is headed for the Hudson."


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