Steve Jobs, the cult of Apple, returned after a liver transplant in July time frame. Once again, he is managing even the smallest details of his company’s products, this time focused on a new Tablet device.
As we reported Earlier, Apple plans to launch two variants of the Tablet device.
Since his return in late June, the 54-year-old has been pouring almost all of his attention into a new touch-screen gadget that Apple is developing, said people familiar with the situation.
Those working on the project are under intense scrutiny from Mr. Jobs, particularly with regard to the product’s advertising and marketing strategy, said one of these people. The people familiar with the matter declined to give details on the tablet or disclose when the device would come out.
Apple staffers have faced Jobs’ scrutiny after a period of freedom over product strategy during his leave. “People have had to readjust” to his presence, noted the Journal, quoting a person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Jobs, in an email, said “much of your information is incorrect,” but didn’t provide specifics. A spokesman for Apple, Cupertino, Calif., declined to comment.
Mr. Jobs’s involvement is a sign of how important the new gadget is for Apple. In the months before Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 — now its fastest-growing product — the CEO was also on top of every detail, such as the curvature of the phone’s back, said people familiar with the matter.
Since then, Apple has updated several of its product lines, including the iPhone and its Macintosh laptops, but hasn’t launched an entirely new category. And while the company has recently posted a string of strong quarterly earnings, growth in some of its once hot devices, such as the iPod, has slowed.
s rumors of an Apple tablet PC reach a fever pitch, a new research note by Piper Jaffray suggests that any such device would be a significant revenue generator and drastically affect the market for mininotebooks, also known as netbooks.
The Aug. 7 report, written by analyst Gene Munster along with analysts Michael Olson and Andrew Murphy, predicts that Apple will roll out “a touch-screen device similar to an iPod Touch but larger.”
The report stated, “We spoke with an Asian component supplier that has received orders from Apple for a touch-screen device to be fulfilled by late . This data point underscores our thesis that a tablet will likely launch in early .”
Piper Jaffray has been steadily beating the drum for months about the prospect of an ultraportable Apple tablet PC. In May, the research company issued a report suggesting that the tablet would feature a 7- to 10-inch screen and retail for between $500 and $700, effectively filling a strategic gap for Apple between the iPod Touch and its low-end Mac desktops.
The Aug. 7 report reiterates those points, and suggests, “Apple will target the netbook market with its new device.”
“We believe an Apple tablet would be priced 30 to 50 percent below the $999 MacBook, and would offer best-in-class Web, e-mail and media software. In other words, we believe Apple’s tablet would compete well in the netbook category even though it would not be a netbook.”
Apple hasn’t made any public statements about Mr. Jobs’s health since he returned to work in late June, but the CEO has come into headquarters two or three days a week as the company had previously disclosed.
People close to Apple said Mr. Jobs is still thin as he recovers from the liver transplant, but his health has improved significantly.
Tablet PCs have been around since earlier this decade when Microsoft Corp. launched an operating system for such devices. The gadgets, which typically resemble a laptop, were supposed to make computing more natural with a touch-screen that can be controlled with a stylus or finger.
Despite attempts by manufacturers like Toshiba Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Fujitsu Ltd., the market didn’t take off as the devices were too expensive and didn’t offer additional features. According to research firm IDC, tablets comprise about 1.4% of the global portable PC market.
At Apple, a tablet-like device has been many years in the making. Apple filed a patent related to a tablet device as early as 2000, according to a Thomson Reuters patent database.
But development has come in fits and starts. Mr. Jobs killed the project twice in recent years, the first time because the battery life was too short, and the second time because there was insufficient memory, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
Though Apple doesn’t discuss future products, many analysts expect its tablet to be a multimedia device that will let people watch movies and television shows, play games, surf the Internet and potentially read electronic books and newspapers.
It is not clear whether the device will run the full Macintosh operating system or a version of the iPhone operating system. Apple watchers expect the tablet to debut at the end of this year or early next year.
Analysts say how well an Apple tablet sells will depend on price, which most believe will be between $399, the price of a high-end iPod touch, and $999, the price of the cheapest MacBook laptop.
“As devices become more expensive, your ability to make them mass market declines,” said Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
The popularity of cheap and light computers under $500 known as netbooks has pressured Apple to come out with a device in a similar price range.
But as recently as last October, Mr. Jobs rejected the idea of a cheaper computer in an earnings call, saying, “We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk.”