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Articles: Take Two iTablets and Call Me In the Morning

Once upon a time, long, long ago, before Al Gore invented the internets and people only knew what they were told by professional writers in things called magazines, Apple and Steve Jobs controlled their very own universe. They sat in Cupertino and dreamed up new and exciting ways for people to interact with electronic devices, then Steve could take the stage in San Francisco and absolutely blow everyone away with a new gadget, upgrade or computer that no one saw coming.

Steve has since mastered many other arts of marketing and showmanship, but that heretofore cornerstone to his act is a little bit like taking the liquor away from W.C. Fields.

It’s just not the same anymore. But, W.C. is dead, and a whole lot of younger people might not even know who he was, so one thing is true: things change. I’m not sure Apple will ever be able to spring a huge surprise on us ever again.
But Apple is such the darling of today’s press that it really doesn’t need the element of surprise anymore. That was a great way to grab extra attention... but I daresay Apple gets more attention than it probably wants at this point.

Almost anyone who keeps up with technology at all surely knows Apple is about announce some sort of computing tablet. The internet is rife with speculation as to what it will work and act like. It’s becoming hard to imagine Apple actually pulling yet another rabbit out of its hat, and blowing us all away with some newfangled feature we never imagined or thought could be done.

Back in my day...

Long ago, Apple could have sprung a tablet out of nowhere and we’d all have been wowed and amazed and bought them in droves before many of us even knew whether we needed one.

Today, I will be absolutely blown away if Apple blows us away (which will be like two blow-aways, which may either give me a weeklong migraine or allow me to go at least a month without any kind of alcohol to feel rather giddy). Because while I understand the need for a better and faster computer, or an easier-to-use MP3 player, or a cooler cell phone, I don’t quite understand yet what a tablet is going to do for me that any of those things don’t do, at least something I’d want to pay for.

I own a Kindle (the e-book reader from Amazon), and love it to death. I may never buy another “real” book again. It’s light, it’s easy to read from, it gives me instant word definitions, and I can read one-handed, leaving my other to scratch my nether regions, grab a potato chip, or, if I just can’t stop multi-tasking, change the channel on the TV with the remote.

It also saves me from hauling three or four books on vacation, and is even lighter and easier than carrying one book for short trips.

But an Apple tablet is bound to be bigger than a Kindle, and I have a hard time thinking that it will replace anything else I carry. Indeed, if it’s so ruthlessly cool that I absolutely have to have one, when I travel I’ll be carrying a laptop, Kindle, iPhone, iPod (because the iPhone’s battery doesn’t last long enough for extended music listening and phone talking), headphones (because I don’t like Apple’s ear buds), a charger for each damn one of them because even Apple doesn’t standardize all its power cords... and then to throw a tablet on top of all that? It’s not so much the weight but finding enough outlets in the hotel room to keep everything charged up.

Oh, and not being able to tell the difference between a pit of very thin vipers in the bottom of my carry-on bag and the myriad cables that tangle themselves up as soon as I close the latch.

Is it for work or pleasure?

I also really can’t imagine a tablet replacing my laptop, even for just traveling, because I really doubt I’ll want to do extensive typing without a regular keyboard. Maybe Steve thinks we can re-train ourselves to type with two fingers on a screen, but while that’s fine for short responses and keeping up on things; to do real work, I need a keyboard. Maybe the demand for a bigger screen to watch videos -whether movies or YouTube- will be enough to make the thing worthwhile for Apple.

But you never know, it could also be the device that makes all sorts of people’s heads explode when they’re exposed to that one additional multimedia device that puts our brains into overload.

I hate predicting technology issues. From a practical standpoint, it’s mostly a matter of thinking that I’m fine with knowing what that gadget is once the manufacturer announces it, especially since any preliminary speculation is almost always a mishmash of guesswork and uncertain or dubious insider tips, none of which gives me certainty that I’m going to change anything in my life until the thing ships.

However, in this case, I’m a multiple personality: preparing myself to be blown away on one hand, preparing for a shrug on the other. I don’t discount Apple’s ability to amaze me at least one more time. I’m just perhaps more puzzled than I’ve ever been before as to how they’re going to do it. January 27th we shall know the truth, which won’t actually set us free, because no doubt Apple will charge a nice premium for whatever genius they’re selling.

And you know, if I’m not blown away and the thing is as popular as the Apple TV, which became a “hobby” for Apple when it didn’t sell like iPods, then I’ll have been right. I’d prefer to be blown away, but being right is pretty fun too.
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