If you follow gadgets or new tech and you are not aware that Apple is introducing “something” next Wednesday, you are either (1) my wife or mother or (2) awaking from a long long sleep. Now along with virtually anything Apple does, or contemplates doing, or doesn’t contemplate doing but others contemplate on their behalf, the rumor mill on this “iPad” is just out of control. Not a day has gone by this week, and probably the week prior, where numerous stories on TechMeme centered on the speculated device. My turn.
I’ve tried to think about this entirely with the following perspective:
- Tablets, as we think of them today, suck (unless you are in a very specific niche, or perhaps a crazed fanboy).
- Steve Jobs does not like to ship suck-y products.
- Apple does not focus on niche markets.
- Some of the rumors we’ve seen are likely correct (a million monkeys on a million keyboards…).
- Apple will still likely do one or more things nobody’s even hazarded a guess at.
So with that in mind, what is Apple up to?
Some more assumptions:
- It’ll have 3G services built-in. I’d hope for Verizon, but that limits Apple to its international possibilities. And there’s no way they’d waste the money on two different 3G chips.
- It’ll have a “built-for iPad” program at launch. Still nothing from Droid on this front, but you can bet that Griffin, Case Logic, Kensington, and all the other players will have cases and other accessories coming to market extremely soon.
- It’ll have the iPod connector, USB, DisplayPort and an SD card slot. A webcam is highly probably, and I wouldn’t be surprised with an IR interface as well.
- It might have some clever method of charging (magnetic induction).
Here are some thoughts on the product itself, in no particular order:
- Sub $300 e-reader + tablet: How about if Apple directly takes on the Kindle, and throws in a great version of Safari, and a Verizon 3G connection? They sell it at cost, give it a beautiful touch-screen, make it all iPhone-y, but keep it as a simple device. At this price point it does compete with the iPod Touch, technically, but not in reality, as they are such vastly different products. We know from the Kindle’s success that there’s a market for the category, and we know that the Nooks and Sonys of the world won’t stand a chance versus Apple and Amazon as the category leaders. In the “what seems kinda possible and stands a chance at selling in the millions” way of thinking, this is definitely a contender. Not as sexy as some other options, but possible.
- Detachable MacBook screen: I’ve come back to this one a few times, as it seems to fit “the world we know” fairly well. What if instead of it being a whole new device, Apple upgrades all MacBooks to have touchscreens that are detachable. In other words, the keyboard part of the laptop comes off. It would require some fairly sophisticated engineering to pull off, as the bulk of the computer itself is in the keyboard area, but if anyone’s going to do it. I think it’s a bit farfetched, but only because I can’t conjure up the physical realities that would be required for it to work.
- Mac “Accessory”: Had an interesting chat about this concept the other day – basically it’s the idea that the tablet is a remote desktop viewing device that lets a user log in to another Mac elsewhere on the Internet. It would probably have an internal Web browser as well, and some simple other features, but effectively it’s a “dumb terminal” for a more powerful computer. And in a coup de grace Applesque way to do things, it would probably let you log into a Windows 7 computer as well (assuming you got the right drivers installed, of course). I don’t think this is a strong possibility, as it doesn’t seem mass-market enough, but it would become a really interesting competitor to a netbook in regards to being a “disposable computer”.
- Media Slate: So picture a device that’s sleek and sexy, can play back movies, TV shows (including live TV), Internet radio (lala), show pictures/slideshows, play simple games (app store), and be otherwise completely entertaining. It connects from anywhere, has enough internal storage to last a nationwide flight, and is all about fun. Further, it comes with numerous context access options, including free services, a la carte purchasing/rentals, and subscription options. It probably also has a Webcam and native iChat support. I’m fairly bullish on this concept, as it seems to fit in with the Apple iLifestyle very well, and makes for a useful product.
Those are all good, and nice safe bets. I don’t think I’ve hazarded guesses that others haven’t. But now I’ll (try to) get more interesting.
- What if the entire device were touch-sensitive? Front AND back. Fully gesture enabled, not just multi-touch but multi-hand. Remember, one of the things that makes tablets suck is figuring out how to hold it right – so let’s assume they “magic mouse” the whole thing, and made it smart enough to figure out the difference between the “holding hand” and the rest of it.
- What if it’s a flexible display instead? Okay, this is probably stuck in the in my dreams category, but it would be crazy impressive if they skip the whole concept of a tablet and move the industry up a notch with a flex display.
- What if there’s a built-in pico projector? Going on the “media slate” theory, but kicking into gear the concept of “fun for the whole family”. Also doubles-up as a productivity device for showing presentations.
What if there’s no tablet?
Seriously, it’s a real possibility. What if instead of showing us a tablet, they show a 4G iPhone and impressive updates to other devices (or not)? What if they announce media streaming services instead? We all know Apple plays their own game, and if they haven’t figured out how to make this thing magical, I don’t think they’d want to ship it. It would be a bit of an odd strategy, as there seem to be a few too many pseudo-confirmed rumors, but then again, Apple doesn’t deal with terrorists rumors. It’s a possibility…