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Apple Tablet Is Corporate Play

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and publicly-held high tech corporations gotta grow, incessantly, if they want to keep their share prices up, investors happy, and executives making money. And Apple (AAPL) has a problem. It's been getting great traction with the iPhone, but Wall Street has come to expect the electronic equivalent of Miracle Gro even as competition is sharply increasing. A tablet product is on the horizon, as you might have guessed from all the obsessive tea reading (which, as I check, has actually been going on for about 18 months). But its main intent may not be what most people are expecting.

One thing that has had me wondering about the tablet obsession is who would buy it. Yes, I know that Apple is good in user interfaces and, sure, its marketing mojo would sell plenty of tablets to consumers. And yet, tablets have been around for at least close to 20 years that I remember, and people just haven't cottoned to them.

Although consumers may not have taken the tablet dive, businesses have for years. Delivery people, field service personnel, salespeople, meter readers -- there are many industries in which tablet computers are a normal expense.

When you think of Apple, it's generally as a consumer electronics company. But that's a relatively recent position. For years, it was the tool of choice of designers, graphics artists, and creatives of many different stripes. Originally, and for a long time, Macs were widely used in business. Consumer electronics are all well and good, but corporations spend a whole lot of money on computers, software, and devices. Even with the iPhone's market success, Apple still hasn't wooed business buyers en masse.

But there's evidence that Apple may be using a tablet as a way to break out of the consumer box, which would reopen the largest markets for it. According to one blogger with a well-connected source, Apple has been approaching hospital executives about using its new tablet in healthcare (via VentureBeat). Sure, Apple's also been talking to media companies, but maybe the parties aren't expecting to see consumers on subways toting an iSlate, or whatever it would be called. Maybe it's to make information available on a device targeting businesses. Opening up a strong corporate offering would create a new source of growth that would allow the company to remain an earnings hero for some time to come.

Image via Flickr user myuibe, CC 2.0.

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