In case you’ve been in a coma for the past few months, then Apple’s forthcoming Jesus Tablet will be news to you. Whether the iTablet or iSlate or iPad is a big iPod touch or a super slim wireless Mac remains to be seen.
One thing is certain. Apple’s tablet, in keeping with Cupertino tradition, is likely to be somewhat different than most expectations, and do some things that will surprise all of us who keep our favorite Mac maker under close scrutiny.
What will Apple’s tablet-like device be? It cannot be simply an ultra thin Mac with a touch screen. Why not? Been there. Done that.
Windows PC tablets have been around for years. They’re bulky, slow, underpowered, expensive, and, basically, no one can figure out a way to get the masses to buy one, because there’s no real reason.
A Mac that does what the PC tablets have done, even thinner and with more stylish eye candy, would still be a niche product.
Why buy a tablet Mac or a giant iPod touch when a Mac does more, and an iPhone fits in your pocket, too? In other words, the purpose of such a device is still waiting public approval.
The Distance Between Shortcomings
Assume for a moment that both the Mac and the iPhone each have a singular, though different shortcoming. The Mac is a full-fledged computing device and can do nearly everything, but, relative to the iPhone (and by extension, the iPod touch), even the svelte and stylish MacBooks are heavy and bulky. They’re too big.
The iPhone has over 100,000 apps, games, and utilities, handles email with aplomb, browses the web better than any handheld device, and fits in your pocket. The screen is too small.
Between the two devices, the Mac and the iPhone, is a void which, when filled, may bring a solution to the shortcomings of both. Can Apple create a device that is so compelling that Mac and PC owners who also own an iPhone will also want to buy the iTablet/iSlate/iPad?
Or, in this new device, is Apple about to redefine the personal computing experience?
Specifying The Specifications
Apple’s tablet will have the expected specifications. The multi-touch screen will be about 10-inches (diagonal, of course) with an aluminum frame. It will be thinner than a MacBook Air. Add to that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a minimum of ports (USB, audio, HDMI), a video camera and microphone (and I’m betting GPS, a compass, accelerometer).
Think of a very large iPod touch, that will appear downright diminutive compared to the thicker, heavier, aluminum 13-inch MacBook. Storage will be 32 or 64 GB of flash memory.
The tablet will come in two flavors; one will be typical Wi-Fi, ala the iPod touch, and the other will be a 3G telephony device, ala a big iPhone. The latter will run on all major cell phone networks, CDMA, GSM, 3G and probably 4G, and likely subsidized in a manner similar to the iPhone (read; 24-month contract) to keep the price down.
It’s All About The Software. Except…
The Apple tablet hardware will look and feel luscious. That’s the way Apple rolls. The key differentiator between the new device, tablet PCs to come, and tablet PCs of the past, will be Apple software.
Cocoa is the user interface framework for Mac applications. Cocoa touch does the same for iPhone and iPod touch applications. Both reside on top of a customized OS X. What will the Apple tablet use? Will it be both Mac OS X, and iPhone OS? No. Neither the iPhone OS nor Mac OS X Cocoa framework is suited for a 10-inch display.
Apple will launch the tablet with an extended version of Cocoa touch, but with plenty of extra software gizmo features befitting the extra screen space. Sure there’ll be Mail and Safari and iTunes, and other familiar applications, but no iLife, opting instead for slimmer apps that will pull your music, movies, and photos from your Mac via WiFi, on demand.
No technology company is better at leveraging features and functions than Apple. However the tablet is configured, Apple can leverage application developers from both Mac and iPhone OS, MobileMe, iPod and iTunes to create a total package in a device that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Follow The Money Trail
One thing is missing. What will Apple’s device do that is so compelling that people will line up to buy one? The larger screen real estate will be welcomed, yes, but the device won’t fit in your pocket like an iPhone or iPod touch. It won’t be as powerful as a lowly Mac mini or MacBook.
Newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters have suffered in the new economy. Advertising revenue is down substantially, and revenue from their online ventures is not sufficient to cover their still significant costs. Apple to the rescue. Today’s internet and computer and smart phone technology blurs the lines between the internet and traditional media. What’s the difference between a magazine web site, a newspaper’s web site, and a radio or TV station’s web site? Not much.
Apple’s tablet device will bring a rich, compelling multi-media experience to the tablet like none other, combining the elements of modern computing technology—Wi-Fi and 3G, multi-touch screen, stereo audio, 3D video—with eye candy applications (and developer tools) and unique content from mainstream media.
For a price. Apple will pull all the pieces together in a highly compelling multi-media package which provides media outlets (newspapers, magazines, broadcasters) with additional and substantial revenue streams (both advertising supported and paid content). An updated and extended version of Safari will wrap the content on all of Apple’s devices. Don’t expect to see Google AdSense ads in the mainstream media content on these devices. Apple’s penchant for a wholly integrated, insular, closed but integrated system will rule the day and pit mainstream media and Apple against Microsoft’s Bing and Google.
There. That’s my view of Apple’s future. I’m out on the limb. But I’m not alone. What’s your perspective?