No Predictions, Just Observations on the Apple Tablet

Tomorrow is the big day, and by noon PT all will be revealed. I’m tossing my $.02 in the ring with some general observations about what Apple will announce. I’m not getting into detailed predictions — better men than I have failed miserable at guessing what Apple will do — but rather some overall comments I have after absorbing hype for the last few weeks.

The Name. I’d love Apple to avoid “tab” or “tablet” because those devices all failed. Why name after a failure? I can live with “Slate” or “iSlate”, though I’d prefer it be avoided since Apple’s competitors jumped on that bandwagon. Personally, I prefer “Canvas”, without the “i”. There’s a lot of talk about “iPad”, and while Canvas is better in my opinion I could live with that.

The OS. Yes, tomorrow we’ll see glimpses of iPhone OS (I’m convinced this thing will not run Mac OS) because they need to show the new features of the OS that allow the device to do what it does. Whether this is version 3.2 or 4.0 doesn’t matter to me. Of course it’ll multitask. No, I don’t think we’ll see a third specialized “tablet OS”. I think the iPhone OS (perhaps rebranded) will identify the hardware upon which it’s installed and act accordingly, much as Mac OS does with the multitude of Mac models now.

The Other Software. I’m sure we’ll see a new version of iTunes to support the new device. And we may see a new version of iWork if some of those apps have been modified to work with the device. I’m less certain of this one right now.

The Apps. Deal with it. There are going to be several demos of new or modified apps that show off the new device’s capabilities. If history is any guide there’ll be five or six of these, and many will consider it boring. But apps are what make any such device go, without them it’s just an exercise in hyperbole. Live bloggers will pander to their readers talking about how boring it is, but I say you shouldn’t be pro-developer when you’re courting favor, and then slam them when they’re actually showing their wares.

The Competition. I read books on my iPhone all the time (Kindle, Stanza, etc.). If this thing does it just as well but with the larger screen, I think even those who question book-reading on the iPhone will be swayed. Add to that the color screen, etc., and the Kindle, Nook, Sony devices are going to look like expensive jokes. I buy Kindle books, but I don’t care about the moves Amazon has done of late, and even if they offered a Scarlett Johansson lap dance there’s zero chance of me buying a Kindle for more dedicated e-reading now. (Sorry, Scarlett, it was really close.)

The Device. For the most part I’m staying away from this one. Partially because Apple is unconventional, and partially because it’s not hard to see why just about any given hardware feature could make sense. And yet, Apple will only implement a small number of them. It’s priorities. It’s Jobs saying “no” more than “yes”. It’s also about the new paradigm Apple is bringing to market. For example, why make it easy to use a keyboard if the new paradigm says you shouldn’t need one? Choice? It’s a fine line between “choice” and “legacy support”. If this device is meant to continue letting physical keyboards go (as the iPhone started), then you don’t have to make it easy to use one.

The Pundits. I would be willing to bet that, even as write this a day before the event, there are pundits writing their articles slamming the device. A few quick edits here and there and it’s published. If you think the heights of craziness peaked with the iPhone-slammers (teenagers dying while texting on a software keyboard), you ain’t seen nothing yet. Brace yourself for ridiculous punditry at it’s finest.

That’s it. Tomorrow the fun begins, and I look forward to the next step in computing even if I won’t know until later whether the device appeals to me personally or not.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

3 thoughts on “No Predictions, Just Observations on the Apple Tablet

  1. Couldn’t agree more, Tom. What makes other tablets (Windows) suck is that they run Windows, a desktop OS. Mac OS X on a tablet is just lunatic… if people wanted that they would be buying ModBooks left and right, but they’re not. And it’s not just the cost (and weight). What makes the iPhone special and what will make any larger iPhone-like device special is exact the fact that it has more restrictions on the software, cutting off the legacy, and designing completely new software directly for the new paradigm. Three years since the unveiling of the iPhone, and competitors still haven’t figure that out: lose ALL the hardware buttons, losers!

    Remember WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS? A blue screen of gray text. But for some reason it had mouse support! Mouse support in text mode, but it was still all text! They weren’t letting go of the text mode paradigm and embracing something cleaner and more sophisticated, more human, more obvious. MacWrite and Microsoft Word (for the Mac and for Windows) spelled the writing on the wall for WordPerfect. And good riddance. No one’s crying for the buggy whip manufacturers, right? (PS I don’t particularly like Microsoft Word, but it’s clearly much easier to use and more powerful, as any new software for the Tablet will be compared to desktop stuff in its own direct-manipulation way… note that I don’t think all software will be ported to the tablet, like Xcode, etc.)

    Prediction: once the stupid pundits realize that Apple knows exactly what they’re doing, they will eventually admit: “Finally a portable computer without the need for a lap or a desk or a stylus. Why did this take so long? Oh, right… the software all had to be thrown away and re-written.”

    I’m also predicting that the Table may take things so far as to NOT require synching to another computer but will RUN a new version of iTunes (which may interface with the cloud for backup) — note that if you activated an iPhone you could conceivably already fill it with music and content from the iTunes store; why not take it that one step further and let the user organize it directly?

    Finally, expect a few desktop-like apps like iPhoto or Keynote or Pages: Apple wants people to be able to use this without the need for a traditional PC/Mac (that’s my prediction) and what better way to show sophisticated ten-finger apps than with their own venerable software. You heard it here first.

  2. iPhone’s OS seems too simple for a screen that should be quite a bit bigger. Since iPhone OS is basically an offshoot of OS X, I don’t think it would be too hard to make a custom “tablet” version of the OS. If it is just running iPhone OS, that would be pretty disappointing IMHO.

    • I think iPhone OS is capable of a lot more than people give it credit for. Remember, IT is an offshoot of OS X. Some of what it “lacks” is due to the hardware of the phone itself. On better hardware it will almost certainly do more.

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