Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What the Apple Tablet may have to be.

I know, it is only going to get worse in the next 24 hours, with rumors and wishes, some more ill conceived than others, about the Apple event Wednesday Jan 27, tomorrow, some merely blatantly trolling for hits. But I, blatantly trolling for hits, do not see the thoughts that I have about the rumored device, bandied about so much, and mentioning my conjectures to Twitter in 140 character bites only goes so far. If you have felt the same, thinking of some hidden issue about this tablet rumor, whatever the Apple event might be, feel free to comment here.

Ferinstance, one thing is, who wants another device to lug around, that might break, that might have another monthly subscription fee attached, when there are already devices in those spaces, like a smart phone, netbook, or notebook? It will have to present itself as something different and singular to keep from competing with those items, while actually being more flexible than any of them to appeal to those who think it is redundant.

I think the tablet will be an oversized iphone with an OS somewhere in the middle of iPhone and Mac OS X. It will run iPhone apps out of the box, those will be easily scalable with a new SDK. It may hand some wireless connectivity in a seamless fashion that few of us ever realize although technically feasible already.

So, its a ten inch tablet. What if it were two screens, like Microsofts prototype device, like a Nintendo DS that closed to protect the screen? I don't think that will happen. But boy, would people be surprised if that happened!

I think it should have two cameras, one as a webcam for iChat, teleconferencing, one to use as a camera on the back. So, it will be a digital camera with the worlds largest LCD screen. Or OLED, whatever. I think it would be nice if the camera was not as wide angle so that it would look like the screen was a normal perspective window. But I think you can count on the level of iphone camera capability.

If it has a built in kick stand to set on a desk, it will be a lot like the battery door cover tab on Mac Books. It is the electronic picture frame, that actually has a decent user interface. Hey, MisterRogers could just talk to Picture Picture.

Of course it will do movies and music, but may not have that much built in memory. It will be real smart about streaming, and recognizing other macs you have though. That is part of the secret sauce.

As far as the eBook, eNewspaper, eMagazine stuff, here is how I think that may pan out.

It will tap into existing ebook stores like Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and will have new content available through the itunes store. The periodical publishers that want subscription fees have an easy way to pay, through itunes. They may have to bite the bullet and make subscriptions closer to mail subscription costs, rather than just a dollar off newstand per issue costs. Will magazines and papers try to sell themselves as an iPhone type application?

And Gaming on the device is going to change as well.

The secret sauce that makes such a device more than just an oversized iPod is the way it interacts with your existing mac devices, should you have them, and with what it could offer education and business. You see artists pay more than a notebook computer price already for Wacom Cintiq touchscreen monitor tablets. This Tablet will automatically offer a 'second monitor' mode when brought near (within wifi range) of an existing Macintosh. It can be a control surface for audio recording, it can be an artists palette, or a tool box for those Photoshop style applications. It can be the screen you watch your downloaded iTunes movies WHILE you keep surfing with your laptop or computer. A second screen has a lot to offer, and that is the main trick. Next to a second camera for chat, this automatic network pairing with existing macs etcetera is my main hope for the device. Perhaps a pen that works with capacitance touch screens for those that would rather draw with a stylus than their fingers. I generally think that the device will accept more touch gestures and even voice command than we have been accustomed to using. Even a return to handwriting recognition is possible, its baked into OS X.

Would this be attractive to education? Ideally I could see existing netbooks taking the education market, although many would opt for a real notebook that allowed some content creation as well. But there are probably some educators that would like fewer keyboards in the classroom at times, may want to teach penmanship, may want to provide interactive quizzes, update textbooks on the fly, share lecture notes and demo videos. I could see this making some inroads into education on price point.

I think with a version of iWorks for the tablet built in, you will even see them adopted more frequently for business and medicine.. I'd like to see a laser scanner as an option. Those scanners in retail use are not cheap, most of the cost goes into making them rugged rather than smart though, but the amount of info they can give someone walking the floor is limited. You may want to keep in mind that you are reading someone who thought that The Newton was going to change the way restaurant tables were served (getting the order to the kitchen more quickly is a plus). But there is a lot to be said for checklists and sorting and adding columns.

But what about cellular connectivity. Do you need it? Want it? What if that bandwidth was paid for by the content providers? Do you want another monthly bill, or a small optional addition to the bill you already have? Or would you rather just buy content and use the device with wifi?

If it was offered subsidized by cell carriers, ATT Verizon whoever, would you pony up another contract? Want to add a few bucks to your existing contract? Or rather just slip in your sim, and use what you have, if you need that connectivity. The thing is, LTE is around the corner. All your wet dreams of getting an iPhone on Verizon are short lived at this juncture. It may happen, and eventually Apples cellular network devices will be LTE. A Verizon announcement might happen with the tablet, but would they spend that time on another iPhone announcement, if this Tablet everyone thinks the announcement has to be about is to take the spotlight?

I think it will be presented in a simplified manner, rather than showing how flexible a tablet could be, to keep from confusing the marketing conundrum of Is it a Phone? A Netbook? A Notebook? A digital Picture Frame? I already have those.

There have been repeated issues with a device that may want to fulfill a certain niche, while the customers want a swiss army knife does it all. That has been an issue with Apple TV, people thought it should be a Mac Mini with DVR that web surfs.. But it is just an iPod with Wifi. The idea here is, it is not THE gadget, it is an EXTRA gadget, A way to see content on that second TV in the house. The times that Sony lost its mojo have been many, but one idea was that they tried to market mini Discs, as a replacement for CDs, when they should have marketed them as a replacement for cassettes, and gotten those players in cars. Thats an example of not seeing where the market is. A Kindle or a Nook is not meant to be a web browser, it is meant to be a separate device for reading. You could get a netbook and install Kindle or BN eReader software on it for nearly the same price as buying a Nook or Kindle. In fact, I have gotten more reading done on them BECAUSE I could NOT go off surfing in a web browser. But they may have to be more. I think Nook and Kindle should both be courting INTERACTIVE quiz content such as ACT and SAT prep book publishers-- those devices can handle that, as well as Crosswords and Sudoku, even with a slow to update E-Ink screen.

But if you think of such a device only in comparison to what it is already like, you are going to miss its potential. Likewise, you can have a device that does everything, and does none of them particularly well. There are some great cameras in those high end Nokia phones. It -is- getting easier for a device to actually do more of those things well, rather than compromising one feature to include the other. Apple has usually been very good about keeping this balance to the point to where it all works, killing a feature if it is not up to snuff.

Will a tablet be more attractive than a laptop for travelers? Have people stopped carrying laptops because their phone is good enough for traveling? Will a tablet be mostly another window for media in the home? Due to its size, it is not likely to be popped in a pocket as much as a briefcase, if it leaves the building at all.

A device like this really sort of the holy grail for periodical publishers because it provides a way to pay with a merchant that people are already familiar with. An Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes account. It allows advertising to be added in without that advertising slowing down the experience as it does with real time web surfing, in both a more passive, and more active manner more controllable and friendlier to the consumer. Will magazines and newspapers be sold like an iPhone app?

I think a lot of people expect ebooks and media content. Yawn... a Kindle killer and a portable DVD player killer. And a Wacom Cintiq killer. It will still have to have its own identity, but I think it is safe to say that a lot of what is going on about this is in a more passive secondary manner, only more active and interactive in certain situations. That is where it differs. It is not purely passive, nor is it distractingly interactive. You already have devices that do that. It is something that lends itself to either equally well, so you interact with it either way in a way you might not with a phone or a net book.

A big surprise would be whether this device had phone capabilities AT ALL. You going to sidetalk this monster like a Nokia Ngage? Keep that earbud umbilical constantly attached? Or Stereo bluetooth? Hey, and you need a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to connect to a tablet? Apple has those, you may have some with an iMac already. The thing is less portable, but hey, you have a phone for everywhere you can't lug anything more, right?

Have you stopped watching TV? Would you start watching again if it were small enough to tote through the house, but would not interfere with your cooking or web surfing?

Will the thing run Flash, like a Notebook can? Or will it keep it locked out? Will the Beatles Catalog show up on iTunes?

You probably have had some thoughts as well, on the potential of such a device, and what may work for it or against it. Feel free to share them in the comments. Good luck on your Bingo Card, I think Pogue has set one up.

And what if the Apple event did not reveal a tablet at all?

The reactive interactive

Yay, my first comment!

Well, I wonder how many blogger blogs stay stagnant BECAUSE they do not get comments at all. Or because microblogging like twitter or facebook takes all the time one might have to get an idea out into the ether.

It seems it has easily been over a year since I have posted. Maybe One reason I have not blogged terribly often is, every time I want to post it is tech related, and the other blogs I comment on, often have very little to do with technology at all. But probably a few of my posts have been about nothing but my trying to post to this blog in some sort of mobile way. Google has probably made it easier to post that way than when I first started a blogger blog; if you have tips, I'd like to hear them in the comments. Ferinstance, is there an app for that now? To post from iPhone?

Consider this a warning; my next post will be on technology.