There is less than a week until one of the most hyped product announcements since the iPhone. Next Wednesday, rumor has it that Apple will launch its tablet device. Speculation has the device named iSlate or iTablet, but no one knows the name for sure. Apple has done a great job keeping the name, as well as the specs, a secret.

There is no doubt about it, the tablet is currently the hottest, or at least most hyped, technology sector. The recent Consumer Electronics Show had no shortage of tablets and e-readers. Everyone and their brother had some sort of device on display.

What many manufacturers have failed to realize is that the tablet is about more than the device. In order to succeed, a tablet needs to have the complete package. The complete package includes the following 3 items:
1. Design: the device needs to look good and have an intuitive user interface.
2. Content: the user needs to be able to easily access content on the device.
3. Integrated billing: the user needs to be able to easily purchase content and apps for the device

Too many vendors are treating this market like the MP3 market. They are focusing too much on the design, and neglecting the content and billing systems behind the device. Apple will not do that.

Apple will bring not only its top notch industrial design to the party but also content and its iTunes store. Just as it did with the iPod, Apple will quickly establish dominance in the market.

The only company who has a chance to challenge Apple is Amazon. They have an established lead in this category with their Kindle device. It brings the content and billing system, but as a dedicated reader, it is not the complete design package. Amazon needs to expand the design scope of the Kindle to make it a worthy challenger to Apple. For all other tablet vendors, the game is over. Yes, a few may survive over the long-term, but their market share will be minimal compared to that of Apple and Amazon.

Personally, I don’t think a tablet form factor will succeed. It feels like a great technology solving a problem that doesn’t exist. Why should I use a tablet when I already have a more portable device that is a phone, internet browser, media player and more? If and when I need more functionality, I just use a laptop or netbook that offers the same portability as a tsblet. On the other hand, there’s a lot of hype out there, and I’m just one opinion.

Am I off target here? Is there a market for a tablet, or am I just being too pragmatic about things? Feel free to let me know in the comments.