Revealed at last: The tablet
No, no, not that one - amidst all the excitement about whatever is going to be revealed later on Wednesday in San Francisco it's important to remember that other tablets are available.
So I've just taken delivery of another device which describes itself as "the future of the netbook". It's the Archos 9 pctablet, a good-looking oblong touch-screen device, about the size of a large postcard. It's got wi-fi, bluetooth, a 1.3MP camera - but apparently no sim card slot for a 3G connection.
But here's the question - what's it for? I inserted the battery, turned it on, and was presented with a Windows 7 login screen. After a lot of poking and a little swearing I managed to choose a language by tapping on "I speak English", but then found myself on a page where I was invited to type a username.
It then took me about an hour to work out how to bring up the onscreen keyboard - and finally I was in. But I was greeted by a completely standard PC desktop, with no quick route to interesting multimedia content. So what I appeared to have in my hand was in essence a small computer, without a keyboard, but at a cost of around £450, twice as much as the cheapest netbooks. So, I ask again - what's it for?
The problem with the Archos and similar fully-featured devices is they can do too much - all those traditional computing activities with a bit of extra multimedia thrown in. There are other tablets - like Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Reader - which limit themselves to a couple of tasks and therefore appear to succeed in fulfilling an unmet need.
I have a suspicion that a device unveiled later tonight will do a bit more than the Kindle but somewhat less than the Archos - and will be better-looking and more user-friendly than either. Its creators will still need to explain what it's for - and why millions of people might need it.
But some are already looking beyond the physical device as a means of accessing the internet or multimedia content. Robert Scoble has an interesting post today about a company we featured a couple of weeks ago, Cambridge's Light Blue Optics. Their technology turns any flat surface into a touch-screen device. Apple may give us a glimpse of the near future - but others are looking even further ahead.