I say this mostly because of the Apple “iSlate” which is supposed to be announced later this month and ship in March. (Even if this isn’t true it might still have the same market freezing effect.)
At this point most of the other platforms have disclosed what they have to offer in the near term. The Google Nexus One is out. A bunch of new eReaders are all out. The Windows version of the tablet computer is out. There is a laundry list of new technology gadgets rolling out CES as we write that will include many new netbook and laptop option from basically every vendor.
But now it feels like we will enter the eye of the hurricane of mobile Internet for the next month or two as all eyes turn to Apple and the “iSlate” or whatever it will be called.
There is an obvious gap in the market that Apple may be able to exploit. The iPhone and similar devices are too small to be good choices for doing lots of reading on. As nice as an eReader might be it’s hard to justify a separate device for it. It certainly feels like a feature that should be built into a device that does more than just support reading.
Obviously many of us simply use our laptops for reading most online content but the form factor is not ideal for casual consumption in the living room, kitchen or the hammock. As reading online expands to represent a few hours a day it’s easier to justify a separate device for it. A tablet style device is perfect for many of these use cases but not if one has to navigate a typical OS environment to use it.
It would seem silly to buy an eReader in Q1. The same might be said regarding a new smart phone although buying a Droid, Nexus One or iPhone isn’t going to cause any acute pain or suffering.
Personally I think Apple might have a hit on their hands if they do the iSlate right. The most critical aspect will be how supported it is by players like Amazon. If Apple and Amazon can work together here it will be huge for both.
However if Apple comes out with a fantastic device but isolated from Amazon and most content then it’s not going to be very compelling.
I’m freezing my technology budget until April/May and then will make some new purchases for myself and the company.
The first quarter is always seasonally weak so it will be hard to tell what magnitude this may have in terms of near-term business trends. But if Apple successfully stalls the market in Q1 it could create some disappointments in Q1 and some opportunistic portfolio adjustments. We can only watch and be ready.
What are you going to do?
[Disclosure: Apple Computer is in the Research 2.0 model portfolio.]