Tomorrow is the day that Apple allegedly reveals their tablet computer, and you can't go anywhere on the internet today without tripping over a rumor/perspective piece about what it will mean. (It's kind of impressive that all this speculation is still just speculation; they're running an airtight motherfucking ship over at Apple.) I'm sorry to report that I am not immune to this pointless armchair prognostication; I'll be watching Engadget as excitedly as anyone else tomorrow morning at 10 am. Here's what seems real to me on the internet:
I really think that this post by The Jesus Tablet is probably as close a prediction of the high concept of the Apple Tablet as you're going to read before tomorrow. They call it "The World's First Companion Computer," and I think that's going to be about right:
We believe much of the initial marketing and apps will be geared toward home use, and if the price is in the $600 range, plus service plan, as we anticipate, the iPad will be shared and passed around the family. On the couch, checking email or game stats. In the kitchen looking up recipes while watching Desparate Housewives on demand. The device will know who you are, get to know your personality, and will present itself differently to you than it does to your spouse or kid. It will identify you and respond to you individually in really cool and unique ways.
(But to prove the problems with all this prediction, Jesus Tablet's very next guess, that the tablet will have a "killer app" to get people interested (which is probably true), and that killer app will be television (which is probably false), is primarily wrong.)
Several anti-tablet screeds are worth reading. This one, on DailyKos, theorizes that the tablet could be a way to turn the Web into an Orchard:
Tablet or not, odds are that this week will see Apple's entry into books and magazines. The bow wave of that pending event is already reshaping everything from how much the New York Times is willing to give away on their web site to what Amazon pays in ebook royalties. When this wave has passed, there's every chance that a lot of people will make their way through the Internet without ever seeing the letters "www" again.
And this cautionary essay for publishers is worth noting. If the tablet takes off as an e-reader—and if it does, it could change the face of independent bookselling and (if Marvel and DC are onboard with Apple) make the comic book store extinct—publishers will basically be giving up all their power to Apple:
First, if there is a bigger control freak in the media industry than Jeff Bezos, it is Steve Jobs. Have publishers forgotten that the music industry was unhappy with iTunes pricing but couldn’t budge Jobs? Publishers can’t budge Amazon’s $9.99 pricing, what are they going to do when Jobs demands $6.99 pricing? Second, if rumors are right and that what Apple is bringing to the table is a tablet and not a dedicated reading device, what makes publishers think tablet buyers will suddenly become book buyers?
In any case, all the speculation will end tomorrow. From there, all the meaningless prognostication can begin. If you're an Apple hater, you'd probably be better off going fishing tomorrow.