Apple Tablet’s Impact Beyond Games, E-Readers

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So many consumer electronics categories could be made or undone by the Apple tablet to be announced on Wednesday, that it’s hard to name a CE product that won’t see an impact.

The gaming industry, the fledgling e-reader sector and the markets for laptops, tablet PCs, portable media players, small screen TVs and even car electronics (the tablet might work nicely affixed to the back of a headrest) could all be bracing for a jolt.   Then there’s the usual boon to accessory makers and don’t forget the impact on wireless carriers (will Verizon be the carrier and not AT&T as a NY Post article suggests ?).

The pre-unveiling hype is more frenzied than for any product launch I’ve witnessed in the past 20 years, including the iPhone.  The feverish but fun speculation we usually see has become just a high fever, contracted by the entire technology press corps.

It’s also possible that major CE execs are also feeling queasy, as they wait on Wednesday’s news.  First, the e-reader market is wondering if there will even be a market after this year if Apple jumps in with both feet.  Just a quick backtrack: to date, we needed dedicated e-readers with b&w screens in order to reduce eyestrain and battery drain for an e-reading device.  New color screen technology from Qualcomm (Mirasol) and Pixel Qi, which is optimized for e-reading could make the need for separate e-readers obsolete over time. But an iconic color  device from Apple should speed up the process.  One of the first color tablets with e-reader optimization using Pixel Qi is due in June from Notion Ink—not necessarily a big household name.  Enter Apple who is already in talks with HarperCollins and other publishers, as per the Wall Street Journal, and the Amazon Kindle could take a hit.

Gaming?  The gaming press has been invited to the Apple event at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and probably not because Apple wants to teach them about e-readers.   The WSJ also says Apple is working with Electronic Arts to create unspecified technology for the tablet.

Analyst Billy Pidgeon of Game Changer Research notes, “Strong gaming performance on this [tablet] and similar devices will pose a threat to high end dedicated portable gaming devices targeting the adult demographic, such as Sony PSP/PSPGo.”

Tablets? Pidgeon add, “This Apple device may have wider impact on the tablet sector than the iPhone did on the smartphone sector,” meaning, many of us will either use or covet our neighbor’s tablet.

What is Pidgeon hoping to see on the tablet? “.. powerful 3D graphics hardware and support for Flash to enable developers to create more compelling games.” He’s also like to see quality game apps sold at higher prices than the current $99 cents on the app store.

Apple’s tablet is generally expected to sell in the $700 to $1000 range, perhaps subsidized by carrier service in a range from $500 to $1000, said Pidgeon.

An example of the media’s high fever? : Overheard: Steve Jobs Says Apple Tablet “Will Be The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Done.”

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