December 23, 2009, 12:33 AM — Here's an interesting story from the Financial Times that nicely wraps up two different rumors bouncing around the Apple blog space lately. The first is that venerable totem, the Apple tablet; the second is a new contender for "Apple rumor most likely to irritate Inside The Cult blogger Josh Fruhlinger," some kind of Apple subscription TV service. Supposedly several networks are being wooed for the latter, including CBS (which owns the CW) and Disney (which owns ABC, ESPN, and a number of cable stations). Conspicuously absent is NBC, newly acquired by Cablevision, whose very existence is threatened by the idea of an over-the-Internet TV delivery medium.
The link between the two is supplied by Morgan Stanley analyst Kathryn Huberty: "The driver behind it [the tablet] will be content." The idea is that people will have to be talked into buying this tablet doodad, because it will be expensive (or will perhaps be subsidized by an expensive monthly wireless bill), and it won't actually be very good at being a computer (too small, no keyboard) or a phone (too big), so Apple will have to have a bunch of cool stuff for it out of the gate. Like TV shows, that you can subscribe to! And watch on the crystal clear, uh, 10-inch screen!
Here's the problem with the idea of watching TV on a tablet: the whole trend in American home video has been the big screen. You can't walk into Best Buy without being assaulted by an array of enormous flatscreens. Why would someone who's gotten used to watching TV on the 50-inch set in their living room switch to watching on a 10-inch tablet in their lap in the den? Is it really so inconvenient to walk from one room to the other? What upsurge there's been in watching on really small screens, like the iPod Touch and iPhone, can be credited entirely to the convenience of the latter. When I get on a bus tomorrow to go to New York for Christmas, I'll be watching downloaded TV shows on my phone -- not because the screen is great, but because I can fit the phone in my pocket. A tablet doesn't have that sort of portability.
Now, other rumors about this TV service have it hooking in to anywhere you have iTunes -- especially Apple TV, which is already positioned in the living room (though not in many living rooms). I just don't see it as a selling point for a tablet.