Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Apple Tablet Computer

On January 26 - an inauspicious day if you are a Koori Australian - Apple is announcing their new Tablet Computer. I don't actually know that, but that's what all the Apple watchers are saying is going to happen. Whatever the case I'm fairly certain that we will see something from Apple in this line sooner this year rather than later.
That got me thinking about what I'd want from such a device, what digital niche this device would need to fit into to be allowed into my ecosystem. It's an interesting question. Of course if you are Apple you'll have tickets on yourself about any major new product being a "niche creator" - we won't know that there is a niche until we see the product. At that point we'll smack our heads and say "of course I need that, that's so obvious now I see it".
So what do I want? Any new device would need to fill a niche between the iPhone at the little end and the MacBook at the big end. It could entice me if it:
  • Was a multitouch device with substantially more screen real estate than the iPhone, to allow me to browse the web, compose real answers to emails and do all those day to day communications tasks;
  • Has real document creation and editing capability - I need to be able to open and edit real Word/Excel documents in real versions of the apps, not some "app replacement". Indeed these first two items - real estate and documents are the key shortcomings of the iPhone for me;
  • A file system I can access and browse. The iPhone file system and the way that it's "private" as far as the user is concerned sucks. I need to be able to load, store and access documents on my mobile device;
  • Real presentation capabilities. If this is going to be my go-to mobile device then I need PowerPoint et al and I need to be able to use an Apple Remote to drive it. Unless there is a wireless connector for the data display device I can't carry this thing around the room so I need a remote;
Now the interesting thing about that list is that I'm talking about the Tablet device, not as consumer electronics but as a road warrior's device. I want a single, low profile device to take on the road. I want to be able to do all the things I do on my iPhone, plus I want a chunk of the desktop capability, but using a multitouch interface. Just for good measure it needs to weigh in at 500g or less (iPhone 3Gs with a silicon skin is 134g and my MacBook is 2181g for comparison).
The difficult bit is that I'm still left with the Tablet and an iPhone, because sure as hell I'm not holding a Tablet up to my ear. More importantly I'm not carrying a tablet everywhere I go. So how does the tablet hook into the cellular network without a completely new SIM, number... I suppose via a WiFi network to your iPhone. Tethering anyone?
Guess what I don't want/need? I don't need a book reader - at least not as the compelling, central raison d'etre of the device. I'm not likely to go and buy or rent books to read on this device - I hardly use the iTunes store for music - in fact I don't think I have. Maybe I want TV, though given the quality of the TV programmes at the moment I doubt it.
So, that's my somewhat biased view of what I'd like to see. Somehow I doubt that it will feature in those areas. I'm pretty sure we're getting a consumer electronics item, not a road warrior's device. So back to lugging the MacBook or trying to file flight plans on the tiny screen of the iPhone. Pity, it would make it very attractive to me if it was a road warrior's weapon!

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