Apple's presumed tablet computer may be more than a breakthrough consumer device. It may also - finally - make tablets a standard part of the business computing arsenal.
OK, before I am corrected, I know that specific tablets have been used in specific enterprise applications for many years. I have also been a big supporter of tablets, yet the quality of the user experience has been lacking. Handwriting recognition, a key for many business applications, has been sore point.
I don't think Apple will solve that problem. In fact, I'd be pleasantly surprised if the new Apple tablet does handwriting. Rather, I expect a device that starts as a consumer product the same business applications as the iPhone, optimized for the larger screen.
Over time, tablet-specific business apps will be developed and some enterprises may find Apple's tablet a cost-effective replacement (or enhancement) to what they have been using. The Apple tablet is likely to cause developers to take a serious look at developing specific vertical market applications that don't exist for the iPhone.
This will be another case where Apple didn't invent something--like MP3 players or smartphones--but did manage to humanize and popularize the devices.
I am still not sure how this will all work out. There are features that may be included or excluded from the tablet that will make business adoption easier or more difficult. For example, if the tablet lacks decent battery life, it will be hard for business users to carry around with them.
I am not expecting a 3G tablet, though the idea of a giant iPhone is intriguing and might improve its adoption by businesses, especially for the types of mobile applications that tablets are used for today.
I am also not saying that the tablet will be a runaway business success, but just as users have accepted business applications for their iPhones, the tablet will likely be accepted as well. It will also be interesting to see the sorts of business apps that will be developed specifically for the larger screen and whatever capabilities Apple builds around it.
Mostly, I am counting on Apple finally creating the tablet that consumers will want and expecting that business use will naturally follow. Having thus opened the door, the Apple tablet might also give a boost to PC laptop tablets and other form factors.