The iTablet: Who is the intended market?

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So let's get back to talking about the iTablet, Apple's near-mythical (at this point) tablet format device. The latest round of rumors, in case you've managed to miss them, say that this is a device with a 10.7" 720p display, that it will be announced on January 19th, and that it will go on sale a few months later. There'll be two versions, one with 3G and one without. It'll run iPhone OS. iLounge is the source of this round of rumors and their sources have been pretty good in the past.

So let's assume they're right, and that the iTablet (iLounge calls it an iPad but I'm sticking to my guns) is essentially a super-sized iPhone/iPod Touch. Ars Technica seems to be disappointed by this news, saying "Still, we question whether a device that is merely a larger iPhone will prove enticing to consumers." and "It seems that the majority of users looking forward to an Apple tablet would be more inclined to carry a 13" MacBook Pro or MacBook Air..." than an 11" iPhone.

I think Ars is missing the point. I'm not convinced that Apple is building a device that it expects you to carry around all the time. I think the iTablet is intended to be more of a living room/balcony/backyard kind of device. Imagine a lazy Sunday afternoon, kicked back on the couch, NFL on the TV, iTablet on the coffee table ready to feed you clips of other games from the web while commercials run on the TV. Goofing around with silly $1 or free apps you've downloaded. Reading an e-book. In many ways I think the iTablet is meant to be a high-tech toy (and let's be honest, for many users the iPhone is as much a toy as anything else).

It's easy to fall into this assumption that everyone is constantly on the move these days. But they're not. Plenty of people still commute by car from home to the office and back home to the family. They're not jetting back and forth across the country every other day. They're not going out to a club or a restaurant with friends three times a week. They don't need the level of portability the iPhone offers. But they do want to de-couple themselves from a keyboard now and then, and that's what the iTablet (or a similar device like the CrunchPad, should it ever reappear) is going to let them do. I think that's the market Apple is aiming for.

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't shoot a few holes through my own argument. Why then, the 3G model? If you're going to use this thing around the house, why not just use Wi-Fi? I don't have a good answer for this, and in fact the 3G model is somewhat puzzling. Maybe it'll be more of a niche device for the people who are constantly on the move and yet don't mind lugging this device with them? Second, why not just get a netbook? For that, I do have an answer. Netbooks are great, but the iTablet will be more fun, thanks to the touchscreen and the app store. I think "fun" is an important metric with this product.

So am I off my rocker? Is Ars right? Is Apple producing a product that no one will want? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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