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An Apple tablet is reportedly confirmed and set for a launch in Q1 2010. The tablet is pictured here in an artist's rendition, next to an iPhone for perspective.  (Source: Apple Insider)

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is reportedly devoting most of his time trying to perfect the new device and push his engineers to create the best product possible.  (Source: AP)
Can Apple craft a successful tablet device where others have failed?

When it comes to electronics product design, few executives or managers are as demanding or as uncompromising as Apple CEO Steve Jobs.  While others have played arguably more important roles in the technical or artistic direction of the iPod, iPhone, and unibody MacBooks, it has consistently been Mr. Jobs that has pushed his engineers to cut the devices' weight and footprint, all while packing in top functionality.

Many feared that the iPhone would be his final opus, when he departed the company with a failing liver.  However, less than a year later, Mr. Jobs is back in action, and according to the Wall Street Journal, he has one thing on his mind -- the new Apple tablet.

Last October in an earnings call, Mr. Jobs famously remarked, "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk."

However, that's exactly what Apple is trying to do, in essence.  They're trying to create a luxury-brand netbook with more power and functionality, that's a small step up from traditional netbooks in price -- similar to its business model in the notebook sector that sees it selling ultralight, long-battery life notebooks for a markup.

Reportedly, Mr. Jobs is acting as a ruthless and relentless captain, demanding long hours, efficiency, and secrecy of his employees.  This comes to a shock to many Apple employees who were beginning to enjoy more freedoms while Mr. Jobs was on leave.  States a source at Apple, "People have had to readjust."

In a brief email Mr. Jobs reportedly contradicted these comments, telling the WSJ, "Much of your information is incorrect."

The new device is reportedly very important to Apple.  With iPod sales slowing, Apple is looking for a new hit to recharge its lineup and keep the so-called "halo effect" going.  The tablet market -- sparked by Microsoft a decade ago, but with currently only 1.4 percent PC marketshare -- seems an ideal place to start.

Reportedly Apple has been working on a tablet for almost a decade now, first filing a patent in 2000.  Mr. Jobs reportedly killed the project twice due to disappointing battery life among other things.  Now, with the iPhone's development lighting the way, it appears Apple is finally set to green light the device.  According to the WSJ, Apple may be pressured to release its tablet at $499 or less, due to the plethora of Windows and Linux netbooks priced in the same range.

Apple's tremendous secrecy makes it hard to determine fact from fantasy, but its clear that something is afoot in Cupertino. 

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another view of mac vs. pc
By chemist1 on 8/26/2009 12:10:03 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps I should hesitate to wade into this controversy, but:

I've owned both Macs and PCs. And I acknowledge that, for the same hardware internals (processor, HD, RAM, etc.), Macs *usually* cost more. But:

First, this is not always the case. I just priced out comparable dual-processor xeon workstations on the Apple and Dell websites. Both had dual 2.66 GHz quad-core xeon processors, 6 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 RAM, 1 TB 7200 RPM HD, CD/DVD RW optical drive (18X for Mac, 16 X for Dell), and a graphics card (512 MB NVIDIA GeForce GT120 for Mac, 256MB NVIDIA Quadro NVS 295 for Dell). If anything, the Mac is spec'd a bit nicer (couldn't configure with identical video cards or optical drives). Plus its case is, I think significantly nicer than that on the Dell (T7500). Yet, including current discounts, the Dell is $5492, while the Mac, at $4799, is significantly less. If you don't believe me, try it yourself.

Second, and this is where I get frustrated reading some of these posts, comparing computers based only on specs (processor speed, RAM, etc.) is like comparing cars based only on specs (0-60 time, skidpad g-values, etc.). It's far too simplistic. There's more to it than that. What's important, ultimately, is the user experience -- how readily, and how pleasantly, can you complete your desired tasks with your computer? Going back to my car analogy, you may be able to get a Ford Taurus with a big engine and fat tires to turn in better 0-60 times and skidpad specs than a Lexus, but that doesn't necessarily make it a better car.

Likewise, comparing my Macbook Pro to my friend's (much less expensive) HP laptop, mine has a nicer keyboard, a better touchpad, and (this is critical) a much nicer display, which makes it less fatiguing to use. It's also thinner and lighter, with a higher-quality case. So if you want to compare hardware, you really need to compare all the hardware. Once that's done, the price disparity (retail cost vs. parts cost) is not as great. And I've left the most important bit for last: the operating system. Having used both OSX and Windows, I find OSX is far better designed. So, in summary, when I pay extra money for, say, a Mac laptop over a PC one, I'm not blindly/foolishly/superficially paying extra just for an apple logo. I'm paying for better hardware and, most importantly, for an operating system that I find wastes less of my time (security issues, anti-virus software, downtime), and one on which I find it easier to be productive. I.e., I'm paying more money for a premium product.

Now, does that mean my MacBook Pro is a better *value* than my friend's HP? No, my friend's $500 HP is probably a better *value*, simply because it's almost always the case that, when one purchases a higher quality/premium product, the cost:benefit ratio decreases; i.e., we have the the law of diminishing returns. In the same way, a Lexus is not as good a value as a Ford Taurus (sorry, I'm assuming they still make these...). But this does not mean that the decision to purchase a Lexus is not a rational one. Man does not live by bread alone -- we should purchase that which we can afford and best enhances our lives (unless we want to be ascetics).

And am I arguing that a Mac is *universally* a better product (i.e., better for everyone)? No. Let's go back to the car analogy. For some people, who use cars in unique ways, raw performance like 0-60 times and other specs are the most important attributes. Likewise, there are some computer users for whom raw performance is most important (gamers, and builders of computer clusters, for instance). For such users, a non-Mac system is likely the better choice. And, of course, there are also individuals who prefer Windows to OSX.

Rather, my point is that I'd like to see people think things through before they post, and not blindly evaluate the Mac -- or any computer-- based on raw performance only, when raw performance (while important) is merely a subset of the universe of characteristics that make a computer useful, useable, and enjoyable.

RE: another view of mac vs. pc
By Alexstarfire on 8/26/2009 5:33:32 AM , Rating: 2
You're not arguing hardware though, you're arguing software which of course is going to vary. Hardware will simply never vary. It's either going to good for someone or not, mouse and keyboard aside. Is there a difference between Apple's Intel CPUs and Dell's? No. Only real difference these days is the OS. You like Mac OSX better, fine. I don't. I hate that it's quite complicate to do tasks that are quite basic for Windows.

RE: another view of mac vs. pc
By Captain828 on 8/26/2009 7:49:03 AM , Rating: 2
While I have to agree about the workstation part, the whole debacle of PC vs. Mac stands from the fact that you can build a PC with higher-quality components and get more performance than buying a Mac.

And by higher-quality components I mean:
- the case; a Lian-Li or Antec P series case
- high-end low-noise performance fans (like Noctuas)
- a custom low-noise CPU fan
- higher quality Mobo full of features; most high-end mobos have them
- better RAM; lower latencies, higher speed
- a GPU with a custom low-noise cooler
- a highly reliable PSU that would also make upgrading easy
- whatever reliable HDD (or SDD) you wish

Oh, and OS-X can be hacked on any PC...

Regarding notebooks, I have to agree that Apple does make better Notebooks, quality wise, yet there is always competition. Also, sometimes, the high difference between the performance of a Macbook and a much less expensive Notebook, just makes people choose the higher performing Notebook.

RE: another view of mac vs. pc
By chemist1 on 8/26/2009 7:09:47 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I essentially agree with what you've said, though I suspect to get a case of the same quality as that on the Mac Pro you'd need something like a Lian Li PC80, which is $600 on newegg; and (while I've never seen the Lian in person), I suspect even that might not be up to the quality of the Mac Pro case--the thing's an impressive piece of industrial design, inside and out, and is far nicer than the Antec case I used to build my PC. Also, like you, I am a fan of quiet computers--when I built my last PC I used parts recommended by I was thus pleased to find that my G5 (an older version of the Mac Pro) was exceptionally quiet. I later learned this was because Apple designed the internal airflows to minimize noise; so the case isn't merely made with nice materials and precision construction--there's a lot of sophistication to the internal design.

Nevertheless, except perhaps for workstations, you can typically get more internal hardware performance for less money with a PC, and you certainly have more upgrade-ability, and of course far broader hardware choices (esp. when it comes to graphics cards). But--and I think you understand what I'm saying--I evaluate computers not as hardware only, but as hardware+OS; and while based on hardware alone PCs can be better values, based on hardware+OS the equation changes.

And yes, it is possible to build a Hackintosh. But, if you value your time, those are expensive in their own way.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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