On the eve of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, tablet mania is hitting a fever pitch. We may see dozens of tablets launched this week alone, many from the biggest brands in computing such as Lenovo, HTC and Asus. The presumed Apple ( AAPL) version in particular allegedly is going to become the new iPhone, changing our lives forever like a Messiah. The lines will go around the blocks. It feels like real estate pre-construction mania all over again. (See all our CES 2010 coverage.) Before we swallow the new tablet religion lock, stock and barrel, however, let's ask some basic questions:
- What will it do that the current smartphones and laptops don't do?
- Where will it be used?
- Who will afford it?
I have no doubt that tablets will sell at least a few million units. However, it will not be the next iPhone or Blackberry. It doesn't fit in a pocket. It's not going to be more capable than the laptop you already have. It requires another $500-plus outlay. And if it's a book reader, it had better offer better books than Amazon's Kindle does. This is a tall challenge. It may be more appropriate to mute the tablet sales expectations. That said, if you're Apple, the stores are already paid for and there is plenty of wall space on which you are encouraged to throw some spaghetti, or a tablet. Go for it; niches all add up.