Can Apple Live Up To The Hype?

About 4 hours from now the technology world will turn their attention to an Apple event in San Francisco. Like others over the past 30 years, Steve Jobs will take the stage and announce some new products. But today’s announcement seems as game changing as the iPhone three years ago; perhaps more so. And like that announcement, the hype leading up to the event tells us that Apple will unveil a new type of personal computer based on a tablet design.

Tablet computers have been made for over a decade in one form or another in the PC industry, usually relegated to vertical, form-heavy applications. I’ve seen them used in hospitals and car dealer service centers. They are only mildly interesting since Windows has not been changed much to accommodate the required pen input device. These tablet PC’s are also quite expensive which makes them a niche item with consumers.

By all accounts, the Apple tablet (rumored to be called the iSlate) will be a full-on consumer device. A fusion of iPhone, ebook reader, personal video player and MacBook. It will run on some sort of tweaked iPhone OS ensuring it will have tens of thousands of apps on launch later this spring. Connectivity will be provided by standard wifi and optional 3G from multiple carriers. Content subscriptions will be available via iTunes for movies, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, ebooks and, of course, music. The iSlate will change the computing paradigm forever just like the iPhone, Mac and Apple // did.

The only problem is all of this is rumor and speculation. Mr. Jobs has a history of canceling announcements at the last minute due to leaks. And I expect there will be a slew of other announcments today. Things like the 4th gen iPhone (probably available on all U.S. carriers), rethought Apple TV, updated iWork and iLife, speed-bumped MacBook Pros. These alone would count as “new creations” and cover the announced theme of the event.

As I write this post, the top half of Techmeme is all about this mythical Apple tablet. Clearly the hype machine is preparing us for something big today. If this device is an overgrown iPod Touch or iPhone, many will be disappointed (not me, that’s exactly what I would like to see; $399, please). But if anyone can meet and even exceed pre-launch hype it’s Steve Jobs. I know I’ll be watching at noon for what he’s got in store for us.

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