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tabletAs the hype builds about Apple’s big product launch tomorrow, which everyone believes will involve the unveiling of a tablet device, two analysts at Forrester are casting a skeptical eye on some of the excitement. Charles Golvin and James McQuivey write that the tablet sounds like it’s “flawed in meaningful ways: It’s a computer without a keyboard, it’s a digital reader with poor battery life and a high price tag, and it’s a portable media player that can’t fit in a pocket.”

Despite those reservations, Golvin and McQuivey say they expect the device to be a big deal — but they think Apple needs to do three key things if it wants the tablet to become a mainstream device, rather than “a peculiarity.” Here’s their checklist (the bolded wording comes from Forrester, the rest is my paraphrase):

  1. Create a new device category around personal media. The tablet has the potential to link all of our media experiences on various devices, Golvin and McQuivey say. By storing and playing all your media on the tablet, then synchronizing that media across devices using online cloud computing infrastructure, Apple could create a new device category.
  2. Work their user experience magic on connectivity. In order to achieve that full media experience, Apple will need the tablet to work on home broadband, WiFi, and cell networks. To make this happen, Golvin and McQuivey suggest that the company could become a virtual network operator, tapping into the AT&T and Verizon networks as necessary.
  3. Break open the meaning of the word “device.” Apple needs to create an ecosystem of devices around the tablet, the pair says — and don’t call those other devices accessories, because they’re more than that. Some suggestions: Bluetooth keyboards, docks that can turn the tablet into an alarm clock or a radio, and TVs where the tablet can send its video footage.

All of these sound like solid ideas, and also speak to the high hopes that many have for Apple’s announcement. If chief executive Steve Jobs demonstrates another tablet computer tomorrow, albeit one that has the normal Apple stylishness, that will be awfully disappointing.

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