Wednesday, April 29, 2009

iPhone tablet predictions

Ok, I've been thinking about this and reading news, rumors, and other predictions for quite some time, but I think I'd like to make my own predictions about the supposed forthcoming Apple iPhone Tablet.  First of all, the basic rumor of an Apple Tablet has been ongoing for quite some time.  Apple has said  they're not interested in doing one at this time because they're waiting for the tablet market to settle down.  This is their usual method of operating, of course; wait for the market to show a clear direction, then come in with some small new innovation which truly changes the experience and makes the technology much more useful to more people.  Tablets have never been profitable for any company which has released one.  People seem to think they want one, but in the final analysis, using one is always cumbersome and eventually the product is dropped due to lack of interest.

Let's review what Apple has from the past which they could bring to the table.  First, remember that Apple actually introduced the first version of a "Palm Pilot" long before the Palm existed; the "Newton".  It used handwriting recognition and didn't do it very well, but there are still many people who would swear that the Newton was a wonderful device!  The "Inkwell" software which was used there is still owned by Apple and is actually a current part of MacOS X.  If you plug in a USB tablet device, you'll see it under "Software Preferences".  Apple's "Print recognizer" has also been part of MacOS X since 10.2.  Apple has
 many tablet related patents.

Back in 2004, Steve Jobs
 referenced a new "Apple PDA".  Many people think this device was simply never shipped.  Others have since related stories about the origins of the iPhone stating that the phone started life as a prototype "Newton" or "Tablet" and later had a phone added as well.  If this last story is true, then the 2004 "Apple PDA" was most likely simply the original iPhone.

So, where are we today?  Apple has a new "Unibody" construction method which seems to be widely recognized as the best way to produce a large, thin, device, such as a laptop; or maybe a tablet.  There's a rumor that
 Apple will be using the newly introduced Intel "Atom" chip in a new device.  Could this be a "Larger, 7 x 9 tablet"?  We know that there is a market for a MacOS X Tablet.  One company already produces them by purchasing the MacBook systems from Apple, then modifying it into the first "Modbook".  Apple has been pushing for a patent on an innovative tablet docking station.  There have also, recently, be rumors of a new MacBook Pro 17" which would have a builtin battery such as the iPhone and all iPod models.  Does this make sense for a laptop, especially a large one which would use a lot of power on the large screen and would be expected to perform heavy graphics work?  I don't think so.  Could this rumor be confused and actually be talking about a builtin, long lasting, battery for a tablet device?  That would make a lot more sense.

Finally, there's "
Haptic Feedback".  Many people, including people inside Apple, have been doing research on this for years and it's beginning to finally pay off.  Samsung has a few haptic feedback phones; the "Armani" and the "Instinct".  I've even heard from some people that the "Instinct" could be a real "iPhone killer", mostly due to the keyboard being easier to use because of the feedback.  Apple has a patent on haptic feedback touchscreens.

So, what market would Apple be targetting with a new Tablet computer?  They always have one primary market in mind for any new device.  The device usually appeals to more than the original targetted market, but in order to succeed Apple knows you must have at least one good sized market for which the device is a prefect match.  Well, let's take a look at how well the
Amazon Kindle has done.  Even though the device leaves much to be desired, it generally has been fairly well received.  So much so that Amazon is working on a new version.  Amazon has opened a whole online eBook market with this device.  As a matter of fact, eBooks are becoming so popular that you can get a reader and books for your iPhone as well.  The biggest problem with reading a book on your iPhone is simply the size of the screen.  (Wasn't there a mention above of a larger version of the iPhone?)

Can you see where this is going?  Apple introduces the new "iTablet", based on the same, proven, iPhone OS.  It runs all iPhone applications, including games, which can all be purchased already via the Apple "App Store".  At the same time, this new device is perfect for use around the house because, like an iPhone, it wouldn't need to be charged very often at all, lasting at least 1-2 days, if not more, on a single charge.  It would be the perfect small, take along, device for listening to Podcasts (even
 remotely controlling other iTunes machines over the network), reading web pages (easier, especially for older people, due to the larger screen), and, yes, reading eBooks.  By using Haptic Feedback, the on-screen keyboard would have a good enough feel to be very usable, and the larger form factor means the keys would be drawn closer to normal size, allowing touch typing.  It would have a dock station where it would plug in to be recharged while allowing use of any USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the same as a normal desktop computer.  Finally, Apple would extend the "App" and "Music" store to also include "eBook" sales and would provide an eBook reader (or simply use one of the already existing ones).  The device, being about the same size as a large format paperback book, would be perfect for travelers who read a lot and don't want to take heavy books with them, especially since it would run so long on battery power!  Finally, Apple could do something which would help education by signing an agreement with major publishers to provide eBook format textbooks at a reduced price for currently enrolled, full-time, students!  Since the device would be manufactored using Apple's "Unibody" construction process, it would be sturdy enough to handle being dumped into a backpack multiple times a day.  Finally, students could take notes on a portable laptop which would have enough battery time to last the entire day, and we can say "goodbye" to all of the noise of hundreds of fingers hitting keys, due to touch typing on a completely silent software keyboard with the assistance of haptics.

Can you see it all coming together?  I can.  I hope I'm correct.  I want one!

Let me leave you with a video showing basically what I think Apple is designing. (Of course, this is a much thicker and clunkier version from Microsoft back in 2006.) 
Microsoft's Origami revisited?