Companies are taking a serious look at NetBooks, especially for frequent travelers who already have enough to lug around without the laptops and accessories that make them look like they're headed to a summit climb. Smartphones, as powerful as they are, usually don't cut it for people away from the office for more than a day. A BlackBerry is great for jotting off an e-mail, but terrible for Web browsing; reverse that for the iPhone.
Enter the iSlate tablet (allegedly). If all its apps come through the Apple-vetted iTunes store (thus reducing the risk of bugs and security issues, at least at the app level), and everything else works like an iPhone, then it should be an easy sell to enterprises. Arguably, so would an Android-based tablet, which may offer a more open ecosystem.
With a Kindle-thin device that can play music and serve books and newspapers and navigate the Web and serve as an imminently useful communications tool (can it be a videoconference node?) and run enterprise-class applications, suddenly you've got your Burberry satchel and away you go.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, because for that to work, Apple needs a battery strategy that makes sense (my colleague David Berlind talks about that, and other necessary features here; it needs user input mechanisms that are more natural (my colleague Alex Wolfe talks about that here); it needs carrier partners that can handle the fat apps and provide multimedia bandwidth (my colleagues Eric Zeman and David Gardner talk about the possibility of new carriers here and here); and it needs an even broader PARTNER? ecosystem. Ideally, at some point, the device also needs to be made of more flexible components (watch this video for a prototype example) so that it's as portable as a phone. I liked how Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, called tablets "almost as portable as a phone."
One more thing... maybe there are some surprises in store. This will be the first Apple press announcement I've attended, but it always seems there's something extra up that turtleneck sleeve. If this is, as some suspect, Steve Jobs' final "one-more-thing," then I'm not going to bet against a little shock and awe. Stay tuned for Wednesday's live blog.
Fritz Nelson is the Editorial Director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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