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Apple Tablet Searches Surge

If Apple doesn't introduce a tablet computer at its widely expected but still not officially confirmed media event later this month, there will be a lot of disappointed Internet users.
If Apple doesn't introduce a tablet computer at its widely expected but still not officially confirmed media event later this month, there will be a lot of disappointed Internet users.Last week, according to Internet metrics firm Hitwise, "the volume of searches for a portfolio of Apple Tablet related terms increased 8x."

We're talking about queries like "apple tablet," "what is the apple tablet?", "apple ipod tablet," and the like.

Apple's competitors, like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, which all introduced tablet computers of their own at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, might not mind if Apple delayed its tablet or abandoned it entirely. But it's hard to imagine such a scenario given that everyone concerned about such things considers the tablet, whether it's called the iSlate or something else, to be a certainty.

What will the tablet be like? John Gruber, author of the excellent Daring Fireball blog, has some of the most thoughtful speculation out there. Gruber tends to view Apple's actions in a positive light and sees the tablet as a computer rather than a big iPod, as a device one might use as an alternative to a MacBook.

"I say they're swinging big -- redefining the experience of personal computing," he wrote in a post a week ago.

At the same time, he anticipates that the only route onto Apple's tablet will be through Apple's iTunes App Store.

If his latter prediction proves to be accurate, I don't see how the former one can be right too.

The Apple tablet won't be much of a computer if it's a managed device. It may be a lovely media viewer and portable Web browser, but it's likely be a bargain with the devil, a trade of control for the security, convenience and cost of Apple's management. Say goodbye to the freedom that allows you to choose your browser and install all kinds of software, instead of only officially approved apps.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope it expands computing instead of offering a Disney-style version where nothing bad can happen. Redefining the experience of personal computing I can live with. Restricting the experience, that's a lot less appealing.

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