The Long Road Ahead for Apple’s Tablet

Jan 26 10

The Long Road Ahead for Apple’s Tablet

Paul Weinstein

First published: 26th of January 2010 for Technorati

Apple is set to announce a “major new product” tomorrow, according to CEO Steve Jobs. Most anticipate the new product to be a mobile, tablet-like computing device, something akin to an iPhone’s bigger brother. So meaningful is the new device that Apple’s outspoken CEO has reportedly said that the tablet “will be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

Yet chances are most people won’t see Apple tablets in everyday use until sometime next year at the earliest, if recent history is any guide.

That’s not to suggest the tablet will fail to be successful. It’s kind of hard to make major pronouncements about a device that has yet to be unveiled.

However, consider when Apple announced its equally anticipated iPhone in January 2007. The total number of cellphones sold worldwide in the first three months that year amounted to 256.4 million units. Yet when the iPhone was finally available in June of that year, Apple and AT&T sold a small fraction of that: just under 1.4 million for the final six months of 2007.

Now, 270,000 of those sales were in the first 36 hours of availability, making for a successful launch to be sure, but it also made the iPhone a highly rare device. In fact, the iPhone didn’t become as widely visible in everyday life until the fall of 2008, after Apple released the updated iPhone 3G model which has since sold some 36 million times worldwide.

Or consider Apple’s near-ubiquitous iPod. When first released in the fall of 2001, they were only compatible with Apple’s Mac computers and was sold only 376,000 times in 2002. Not until the fourth generation iPod in 2005 did Apple sell some 22 million units, transforming the iPod to into the cultural icon it is today.

iPod Sales According to Wikipedia

All of this might explain why Apple is rumored to first be focusing the new tablet as a family media device rather than a personal media device, according to a Wall Street Journal article last week. “Apple focused on the role the gadget could play in homes and in classrooms,” the WSJ reported, envisioning “that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes.”

In other words, no matter how revolutionary Apple’s new product may be, it will likely take time, even after the initial buzz and availability, until the iTablet — or whatever Apple choose to name it — will become a household word.