Apple tablet's killer app revealed?

New information adds to rumour mill surrounding potential new Apple product

According to Gizmodo, an insider has revealed that the Apple tablet is indeed real, and mostly what people are expecting: A 10-inch touch-screen tablet running the iPhone OS, priced somewhere between $US700-$US900. However, there's a twist. The tablet can act as a secondary screen/touchpad for Apple computers. This makes it different from and more appealing than every tablet that has come before.

Multiple monitors have gained tremendous appeal over the years, and it's not hard to see why. Having a secondary monitor allows you to reference one thing while manipulating data on another. The more screens the better I say.

A lightweight tablet that can act as a secondary monitor is perfect for mobile professionals that need the extra real estate. Because it's based on the iPhone, its hardware will be lighter and thinner than if it were based on the Intel Core 2 platform. The overall device should be about as portable as existing portable usb monitors like those by Mimo. By making the tablet thin and light, mobile users won't mind slipping in their notebook case with their laptop. By further capitalizing on the tablet by using it as an input device, the Apple tablet becomes even more appealing. I'm a fan of the multi-touch input device used on MacBook pro laptops, and having a multi-touch display as an input device opens up a whole realm of possibilities, especially for graphic artists.

While the leaked information specifies that the screen/touchpad functionality works with Macintosh computers, I think Apple would be foolish to not market the device to the PC crowd as well. A stand-alone tablet is a hard sell at $US700-$US900, and the real value comes when it's mated with a computer. Since the PC market is much bigger than the Mac market, Apple stands to sell many more devices by appealing to the broader audience.

Since one of the rumors that has been thrown about is a potential subsidy deal with Verizon for 3G data, I can't help but wonder if the tablet can be used as a tethering device for a laptop. For lots of people, this might seal the deal. I find it hard to justify signing another wireless contract for web-surfing on a tablet or netbook; it becomes a better value proposition if internet access is also extended to a laptop. While I originally thought that an Apple tablet would be on overpriced toy, it sounds like Apple might be intent on making the tablet a valuable asset for the mobile professional.

Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.

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Michael Scalisi

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