Will Apple Tablet lead us to true convergence?

With Apple being all coy about next year’s announcement of the Apple Tablet computer, it is time to talk again about convergence.

With Apple being all coy about next year’s announcement of the Apple Tablet computer, it is time to talk again about convergence.

We all want one “thing” to carry around that does it all. Do I really need a backpack in my car that has a GPS, a phone, a laptop, a couple batteries, an iPod, a wireless card, a DVD player and a PSP?

I am carrying around more computing power than Apollo 11 every day.

However, the trend thankfully is getting to be one device doing more things. And that device is looking more and more like the cellphone. Already credit card companies are experimenting with RFID strips for the back of the phone to allow proximity wipes to pay for things (debit for me, please) to replace the wallet. I have not worn a watch for years thanks to my cell.

I was mulling over getting a Kindle to read books until I got my Motorola Droid and its glorious large screen.

Now I think I can actually read a book on this thing if I ever had time to read a book again.

I know I can read my mail, open attachments and do various computing things in a pinch. Now my Droid can replace my GPS and in theory my Ipod if I would ever give it up.

So what will a new tablet bring to the marketplace?

Certainly the Windows tablets have not lit the world on fire. Handwriting recognition has basically sucked wind, not because the software wasn’t powerful, but because the variation in handwriting makes recognition very hard. Then there was the weight, the fragility of the screens and battery life.

Can Apple fix most of that? Probably. They have fixed every other user interface issue on the planet (except the right mouse button.) A good tablet can save the newspaper by offering a good interface for an online newspaper. It can offer a great platform for online books.

It can be great for students for taking notes and for doctors and lawyers assuming the software for it is ported to Apple, which is not a sure thing. (Don’t write me, Apple fans.)

The real trick that Apple has to overcome if it does release a tablet PC is price.

It can’t be so expensive that the normal laptop is much more economical, and it has to make a value proposition that makes the device irresistible to businesspeople and students.

In both cases, value is important. In the former, the IT department doesn’t want a new-fangled gadget to fix and support all the time and in the latter, it just has to work without phone calls home to dad or to campus support.

My hunch is Apple will go ahead and release a product, much like its Air laptop, which has very little market under it.

Steve Jobs has a habit of doing what he wants when he wants to and letting the market catch up. He could be right and years ahead of the rest of us, of course.

It would not be the first time.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His email address is jim@cyberdads.com