If Apple is releasing a tablet, you know they are going to be targeting the eBook market. This means that the real news isn’t about the tablet at all, but the addition of a new eBook section to iTunes. Apple isn’t gunning for the Kindle, what they want is Amazon’s ePublishing business and a new tablet would only be a small part of that plan. The success of the App Store has been amazing, but at it’s core the App Store is limited only to iPhone and iPod Touch users. With the addition of an eBook section, Apple can take advantage of their existing platforms (iPhone and desktop) as well as their new tablet.
One of the biggest markets that has been largely been ignored by the eBook business is the comic book industry. While the Kindle and Nook are great for reading newspapers and text, their lack of color and low resolution has left comic book readers out in the cold. A good relationship with comics publishers could be hugely beneficial to all parties involved. Like the rest of the print industry, comics have been hit hard in the last few years, but the ability to directly reach consumers as well as offer unlimited copies of back issues without shipping/inventory could completely re-ignite the comics industry. With this new eBook store, Apple could sell single issues, graphic novels, deluxe editions, and subscriptions (much like subscribing to the WSJ on your Kindle now).
FYI , there are 1.5 million Kindles out there. Currently, Apple has sold nearly 50 million iPod Touches & iPhones (combined). That alone is one hell of a launch pad, but add that to desktop devices and this new portable device and the potential market is bigger than anything else out there.
Of course the release of a tablet will also mean more computing power than current eBook readers, so I’m sure we’ll see new games and applications specifically for the device (meaning a second App store?), but I’m positive that a year from now that we’ll see the real news was not about the device, but on the large market that appeared once Apple finally got into the publishing business.