Analysts Weigh-in on Apple iSlate

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A slightly more sober outlook on the Apple “iSlate” tablet and its possibilities is being offered by analysts weighing in on the device less than 30 hours before it is expected to appear with Steve Jobs on stage in San Francisco.

First, with the tablet yet to be seen, industry observers predict Apple will sell anywhere from 1 million to 10 million units in its initial year, a pretty wide span, says DigiTimes.

Second it should be noted that not everyone is comfortable with an onscreen keyboard.  Canalys said a study of 4,000 people found a quarter of desktop PC users and a third of laptop and netbook users are very interested in a touch screen interface on their respective types of PCs.  That’s still a lot of people who are NOT interested.

Insight Research expects the Apple iSlate will be “interesting but not necessarily earth shattering.”

NPD isn’t buying into the hype that the iSlate will change a wide range of categories in consumer electronics (other than possibly the gaming and e-reader markets). Director of industry analysis Ross Rubin sees little impact on the small TV market due to its high price although this may depend on what Apple offers in terms of a TV service or program downloading.

But he agrees that the tablet may create a market for in-vehicle mounting accessories as well as stands for viewing.

In Forrester Research’s latest assessment, two analysts note that a tablet, by definition “is flawed” because it doesn’t have a keyboard and because, “it’s a digital reader with poor battery life and a high price tag, and it’s a portable media player that can’t fit in a pocket. “

But they note that Apple has a way of exploiting market opportunities and forcing everyone else to elevate their game.  So they go on to suggest a few places where Apple might make a difference, one being creating a device where everyone can carry and  share their photos and personal media in a meaningful way and one that also combines well social media and traditional media like video, audio and text, which no device has done well to date.

Interestingly, Forrester suggests Apple become a Virtual Network Operator (VNO, licensing connected services from network operators and repackaging them) so it can smartly combine different wireless services including your home broadband service plus cellular and Wi-Fi.

Also Forrester suggests Apple keep a close eye on the accessories that could transform the tablet into wholly different gadgets: docks that would make it into a bedroom clock radio or Pandora player,  or “a kitchen recipe stand, a family room photo frame, and a home remote control. “

Doesn’t that put us back to the iSlate altering numerous categories in consumer electronics?

Also to note:  Apple announced late yesterday it hit an all-time record high in profits and revenue in its first quarter for fiscal 2010 ended December 26, 2009 posting revenue of $15.68 billion and a net profit of $3.38 billion, up almost 50 percent from a year ago.

During the quarter, iPhone sales gained 100 percent over the period a year ago to sales of 8.7 million units.  Mac sales jumped 33 percent to 3.36 million units and iPod sales fell eight percent to 21 million units.

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