In a few weeks, this will be a moot point, of course, but here's a brief thought about Apple's upcoming "tablet" announcement. I'm with John Gruber in that Apple is unlikely to introduce a "me-too" product, and may in fact boldly cannibalize their own product to reinvent some aspect of computing or media consumption. But the product that Apple cannibalizes might not be the Macbook, or even the iPhone. I'm thinking instead of their "hobby" product, the Apple TV. They've certainly been trying to make deals with cable and network content providers recently, and they've been tweaking the Apple TV interface pretty heavily over the past year or so. I can imagine an Apple TV that is slim, has a built-in 10" touch-screen, and sits in a funky dock next to your HDTV--or is easily removable to watch video content on the go.Maybe "computing" isn't the business they plan to disrupt. Like Virgin, Apple tends to get into businesses that "appear" saturated or unappealing (MP3 players, mobile phones) that are dominated by moribund companies. I'd gladly stop paying Time Warner Cable $150 bucks a month, and if Apple provides a compelling interface to commercial video content directly from the content providers, then paying that bill becomes even more questionable. The folks who currently run the pipe to your TV sets are used to acting like monopolies--what if Apple gives us the most user-friendly way yet to pull that plug and finally brings mainstream consumers to "new TV?" Of course, you still gotta buy bandwidth somewhere--but with the continuing reinvention of TV, paying a cable/satellite provider twice (once for broadband access, and once to access programming) may soon be seen as an intolerable redundancy.
Tom Webster, writing and speaking