In light of Apple’s finally confirmed event next week about their “new creation”, I wanted to capture my expectations. I got a little carried away on the details, but the headers will give you a good idea of what I’m thinking.
Aiming to Redefine Portable Computing
In general, I agree with John Gruber’s thoughtful post on the Tablet (well worth a read) and I don’t think this will be designed as a single focused device, e.g. an eReader or big iPhone. They are aiming to redefine laptops and portable computing, not to make a pretty interface for e-reading and movie browsing.
Thoughts on OS and Usability
Completely redefined Finder / File Browsing
Presumably on a computer of the rumored size and power there will be some more robust file structure than on an iPhone. Although file structure is fading away with cloud based services and Apple’s own push to make files meaningless in their iLife sweet, they are still here for now. However it’s easy to imagine what it could look like by using the CoverFlow viewer on the Mac Finder.
Full Screen Applications
Most people don’t understand the current paradigm of “Applications” and when you’re “in” an application. I think computing in general will move away from the floating windows to a full screen application. It’s hard to realize this until you have to explain to non-savvy users what an “Application” is, how to tell if they’re in one (“Mom, look up at the top left and what does it say, no the really top left). Every time I have to explain to
No iPhone App “Widgets”
Many people have been speculating that the Tablet will have the ability to either scale up iPhone apps, or enable them as widgets. I disagree because that would be the easy way out, and Apple doesn’t do that. They will make developers re-write their apps completely, to take advantage of the larger screen real estate, new gestures, background processing, and perhaps other goodies. The App Store has proven that developers are extremely willing to write new apps, and Apple will leverage this to make them create new versions and not give them the easy way out of letting exiting apps exist on the tablet.
Thoughts on the Steve’s Keynote
In typical Steve Jobs style, he will come on stage and make fun of current Tablet PCs including insults on usability (most require pens and have terrible UIs), aesthetics (I don’t need to elaborate), and usage cases (what do you do on them other than scribble illegible notes?). This will set the stage for him to focus on the usage cases that make the Tablet different. For Steve, it’s all about the product and how it’s used.
I can also see a similar type of introduction to Steve Jobs’ iPhone introduction, which they positioned as a “a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device.” Perhaps a world-class eReader, a full size media center, and a breakthrough tablet computer. It’s worth watching the original iPhone keynote, which was 3 years ago. Steve wasn’t too far off with his prognostication that the phone was 5 years ahead of others, it took Google and the entire industry to come up with the closest bet to the original iPhone – 3 years later.
Core Usage Cases and Product Features
Productivity – Touch-ready iWork
One thing that really excites me that hasn’t been talked about in all this hoopla is the ability for a truly innovative productivity suite. Microsoft Office has not changed its fundamental structure in 15 years, other than questionable UI changes (i.e. the “Ribbons”). But Apple can leverage their internal iWork (already a much better office suite, except for Numbers vs. Excel 2003 for Windows) to create a dedicated version that leverages the strengths of a tablet. Admittedly this is more relevant and exciting for Keynote, for creating, editing or reviewing presentations, but is also relevant for Pages and Numbers, though not for heavy lifting. I think there already exists a UI framework that would make sense, similar to iPhoto full screen editing, with an auto-hiding browser on top and auto-hiding tool bar on the bottom.
Hub of Digital Life – Touch-ready iLife
Another core software suite will be porting iLife as a touch-ready application. iPhoto would probably be the most useful, but there might be new applications.
Even though Steve Jobs said that “nobody reads anymore”, it’s impossible to ignore that reading on a laptop / computer is a major usage case, just not necessarily books, as he was referring to. When I’m reading blogs, PDFs, or newspapers online, I’d certainly prefer a tablet form factor. And if it was good enough, I’d much rather have that to view my magazines (Wired, The Week and Popular Science) instead of the paper version. I also imagine Apple will be working with publishers (newspapers, magazines, books) to make the buying experience easier and get them excited about eReaders, which are here to stay. Again, this won’t be a dedicated device, but I’d be surprised if this is not laid out as a core usage.
Full iChat including Video Chat
The Tablet would certainly have the horsepower, and a front mounted built in iSight would make video converations incredibly simple and elegant.
As more and more video consumption moves online and onto computers, it makes sense for a device that will essentially be just a screen to have a core and elegant video viewing interface. Apple also has strategic reasons to continue to push to centralize how people purchase and watch video. Watching a movie on a 10” screen is certainly more doable than on a 3.5” screen.
Areas that will NOT be core usage cases
Apple is allegedly not happy with the fact that the iPod Touch and iPhone have become such game centered devices, but I think it makes sense on a device that size. The entire device is a great controller that offers unique handheld gaming abilities. A 10” devices does not lend itself to that type of gaming, and if you’re going to need a controller, then you might as well have a game console. I disagree with AppleInsider on this one.
Music, which has been the center of the iPod revolution and was a core feature on the iPhone, will play a primary role on this device. iPod market penetration is already near saturated, and people want music portability, which a 10” tablet won’t offer.
Apple doesn’t go low end, they are not trying to compete with netbooks directly, especially at launch. They will try to create the best tablet computer ever created, and then potentially have it move down market to compete with netbooks, but don’t hold your breath (I’ve been waiting for a $299-399 Mac Mini for years and full expected they would come that low, but instead the base price increased from $499 to $599). Even at that price, you better believe people will be lining up around the block to buy one when they come out. I myself will be one of them (I bought the original iPhone at $599).
Doubtful but feasible and would be cool
True Docking Ability
If you take the keyboard off of the MacBook Air, and fold the screen down onto it, you can imagine a pretty thin tablet style computer. Now add 2 years of technology innovation on top of that, and you can see a tablet that should be just as powerful as a MacBook Air. When you think that a MacBook Air can run a 30” monitor with its video card and support a full array of USB connections, it’s easy to envision a tablet with a dock that gives it power, USB, and a display connection, through either USB, MagSafe, and MiniDisplayPort, or an iPod like connector. This way, when you’re at home or the office, you simply dock it in and have your main computer there, with an external screen, keyboard and mouse for full desktop computing.
Either way, I’m excited to see what Apple and Steve Jobs unveil. My guess is this will be as significant as the original iPhone announcement three years ago. Can’t wait.