Apple seeks to re-write the book

On wandering down the mountain weighed down with his stone tablets, Moses not only managed to enforce the authority of his God, he also managed to impart importance to the written word itself.

Thus began a war in which the intellect was deemed superior to the heart, male replaced female as the holy sex and the notion of civilisation was pitted against a barbarism represented in the Moses fable by the cult of the golden calf.

The phallocentricity, I'd argue, has brought us to the edge of the abyss. But that's not what I'm going to blither on about here.

Rather, let's get out the crystal ball and muse on what latter-day Moses, Steve Jobs, will be attempting when he wanders down his own particular mountain brandishing his version of a tablet.

The amount of hype Apple can these days muster simply by letting slip that it will launch a new product is impressive.

A decade ago the firm was wandering through its own particular wilderness. Then, in October 2001, it launched the iPod. It was not the first firm to launch a digital music player by any means. And the device itself was certainly not the best yet seen on the market. But the firm's marketing muscle combined with a simplicity of design quickly catapulted the device to must-have status. Apple's masterstroke here, however, was not the iPod, but its ability to capitalise on it with iTunes store subsequently launched in April 2003.

With a music industry in disarray, Apple was able to introduce a way music fans could download the tunes they wanted - and pay for them. Despite an industry's protestations, people who can afford it will pay for the music they want. Again, the iTunes store wasn't the best, technologically speaking. In fact, the iTunes software is incredibly flaky and intrusive. But Apple made it into a worldwide phenomenon.

Famously, Apple's next move was into telephony. It applied its undoubted design talent to the mobile phone and again produced a masterpiece of marchitecture. It's become the most sought-after phone on the planet.

This week, as world+dog-Haiti knows, the firm is expected to introduce a tablet computer. Our money's on it being called the iPad.

Here it will be on dodgier ground. It will be attempting to enter a market that barely exists. When it introduced a music player there was a proven demand for such a device but, as yet, no market leader. Apple conjured one up. Likewise, the mobile phone market was highly developed by the time Apple tipped up. The firm simply had to have a sniff around and produce a prettier one than anyone else and let its brand presence do the rest. It did.

Now, Apple will now seek to re-invent the book. Expect the device to be more Kindle-like than tablet like. Microsoft introduced its Tablet XP in 2001, with serious hardware arriving in 2002. It turned out to be a damp squib. It was fun drawing with a stylus on a flat screen for about, oh, 20 minutes. Then what? Stand the thing up, add a keyboard and mouse and use it like a laptop, was the only option.

The tablet's going nowhere.

The electronic book reader may have a future. Amazon has generated some interest with the Kindle but it's hardly, um, re-written the book. Apple will want to. And, should the device live up to the hype and actually sell, it will want to control the delivery mechanism, too. iBooks anyone?

I can't see it myself. Unless it fits unobtrusively in the pocket, it'll be doomed.

Let's not write off our chickens before they're hatched, but if I want Interweb news on the move I'll use a mobile phone. If I want more than that, I'll use a laptop or netbook. If I want to read a book, I'll carry a paperback. So will everyone else, if you ask me. Except, of course, for the rabid fanbois, for whom Jobs may as well be Moses.