The Apple Tablet's main advantage over an iPod or iPhone for watching video is, of course, its screen.
Sure, the video iPod was awesome when Apple unveiled it in 2005, but have any of us in the last five years really said to ourselves, "Gee, I can't wait to watch the new episode of Lost on this baby?"
Well, no, because as cool as the ability to watch TV and movies on an iPod is, no one actually wants to.
In some ways, watching video on the tablet might even better than a laptop. TSA rules permitting, you'll be able to squeeze into an economy class airplane seat and watch your own movie (and not "Made of Honor") at a reasonable viewing angle, uncompromised by the sleeping fat woman in front of you who's slowly crushing your laptop closed with her reclined seat.
Yet the success of video on portable devices is still an open question. It doesn't really matter if you read a textbook or newspaper in print or online—at the end of the day, you're just reading words.
But video is all about the sensory experience. Watching video on a portable device is inherently a compromise— you sacrifice the scale and quality of an HDTV and surround sound speakers for the convenience of watching your shows where and when you want to.
Increasingly, this convenience factor seems to outweigh the importance we place on "experience." More of us (as Conan O'Brien can attest) now watch TV via Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, BitTorrent, or sketchy Chinese video sites than on an actual TV.
Once the Tablet takes off (as it inevitably will; after all, it's a post-Y2K Apple product), video distributors may realize the technological potential (and profitability) of offering content on such a platform.
A tablet is less bulky and cumbersome than a laptop. You're not going to do very heavy computing on one, but it's perfect for consuming all sorts of media. Yes, it might be overkill for just your music library, but that's what an iPod (which was never really powerful or practical enough for anything but tunes) is for.
Downloading video via iTunes will also make the Tablet an attractive option for video distributors and consumers. Sure, the ease and simplicity of buying video on iTunes has been around for a while, but not 'til now have we had a piece of hardware that really made it worthwhile.
And let's not forget the Tablet's technical aspects, as well. The rumored specs are still quite scarce, but...
Assuming it has the right connectivity options (we hear 3G and Wi-Fi, which bodes well), you could easily download new episodes or rent new movies without even docking your Tablet (much like updating Apps or Podcasts on your iPhone).
And the touch screen interface (in addition to being, you know, cool) means distributors can now include special and interactive features (or even advertisements) that were unsupported on smaller devices like iPods and iPhones, but without the need for peripheral input devices like keyboards and trackpads.
The bottom line is that real TVs certainly aren't going anywhere (and we're not sure we'd want them to). In many ways, it's smart for Apple to gear the Tablet towards the publishing industry (after all, it's a business that could certainly use Apple's help).
But the Tablet won't simply be a glorified iPhone or eBook reader, and its potential for delivering original and convenient video content is especially strong.
Well, you know. As long as it has a decent battery life.
And plays Flash.