Kaifu Lee

Tablet: Big iPhone or thin MacBook?

January 1, 2010: 11:29 AM ET

Speculation about Apple's next big thing heats up as the rumored Jan. 26 unveiling nears

Artist's rendition. Credit: AppleInsider

Two lines of thought dominated the ongoing debate this week about what Apple's (AAPL) tablet computer is and what it might be good for.

[UPDATE: Make that three lines of thought. See Antacid Tablet, below.]

The first -- the tablet as an oversized iPhone -- flows from a brief post in a Chinese-language microblog that gained currency primarily due to the influence of its author: Kaifu Lee, a Carnegie-Mellon trained computer scientist who headed the Apple R&D team that developed the Newton, started Microsoft's (MSFT) Beijing Research Division and, after a five-month legal tug-of-war, founded Google (GOOG) China.

According to Lee (translation via GadgetMix):

"The Apple Tablet looks like a bigger iPhone that sports an awesome [user interface] packed in a beautiful 10.1-inch screen. The tablet combines the functions of both netbook and [Amazon's (AMZN)] Kindle. It has virtual keyboard for text entry and a webcam for video conferencing."

The second -- the tablet as something you buy instead of a MacBook -- comes from a long post by Daring Fireball's John Gruber. Forced into a thought experiment because his sources at Apple -- usually very good -- seem to have disappeared behind a "cone of silence," Gruber asks what strikes us the central question about Steve Jobs' next big thing:

"If you already have an iPhone and a MacBook; why would you want this?"

His answer, in brief:

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