Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mac Tablet: What We Know, What I Predict

My goodness, the holiday weekend certainly started with a frothy cup of bally-hoo, didn't it? More info on the rumored Mac Tablet/MacTouchPad/HiPhone hit the streets Friday morning and folks dropped their morning joe and starting twatting furiously.

Note to readers: conjugation of the verb "tweet" in the past, present and future tense is as follows:
  • I will twoot tomorrow
  • I am tweeting now
  • I twatted yesterday
So look: let's just take it easy and take a big breathe. Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts...

First, the screen size: 5" x 8.66"
Reuters - the news service with the funny name - reports that the new Apple device will sport 10 inch diagonal screens. What does that mean? Well, if we pull out our old friend, Mr. Pythagorean Theorem, and plug in some numbers, we wind up with a device that has a screen which measures approximately 5" x 8.66". (Bonus math note: if you're not familiar with the pythagorean theorem, here's a quick lesson from Darth Vader)



Second, the product size: 5.1" x 9.66"
If the screens on the new device measure 5" x 8.66" then the entire device will be a bit larger. The full size of the iPhone is 2.25" x 4.25", with a half-inch of space above and below the screen. If we keep the same ratio as the iPhone, we'd get a device which is about 5.1" x 9.66".

Third, the price: $500-700
Gene "My Last Name is a Cheese" Munster laid down the smack this week with a report claiming that Apple's new product will sell for between $500-$700. Gene isn't a fortune teller - especially looking like a frat boy - but he is one of the long-standing voices from the "Research Analyst" community and seems to have his shit together.

Fourth, the key feature: a touch screen.
While this sounds pretty stoopid to actually write (and ever stooopider for you to read), it's worth reminding folks that the screens Apple ordered for this device are touch screens. So get ready to use your fingers and hands on this new device, whatever it is.

Fifth, the arrival date: next year.
Peter Smith - a guy with a Van Dyke who looks like he's either about to kill me or attend a Ren Faire Anonymous meeting - writes about the Gene Munster announcement, highlighting the fact that this product will probably arrive sometime in the first quarter of 2010. Peter scares me, so I'll just believe him. I don't want to incur his wrath.

Sixth, the core features: WiFi, Bluetooth, stereo headset, camera, speaker
The iPhone, iPod Touch (minus the speaker) and every Mac laptop already have these features as standard. Apple's new device will as well. No link to support this. Just common sense. Bluetooth integration should also allow for keyboards and mice to work with the device.

Seventh, tablet vs. netbook: nobody friggin' knows.
ArsTechnica is a blog I respect, and not just because their name evokes things like latin, art or technology. They also have good writers, well-informed opinions and GIRLS. Jacqui Cheng sums up the debate quite nicely in an article that takes no sides. Which is to say, she avoids opining on the matter and has instead just reported the facts, which I respect. And she's also pleasantly hot when framed against brick. But that's just me.

Lastly, now that we've got the facts all mentioned, I'll offer my own opinions. Because, you know, I'm ballsy like that.

Tim Cook said "if we find a way where we can deliver an innovative product that really makes a contribution, then we'll do that." Based on that, what I'm looking for is: innovation. That means thinking outside of the box, or in this case - the hinged box. You see, while everyone is focusing on a tablet or netboot form factor, no one's thinking the idea through like an Apple innovator would.

Innovation #1: The Closer.
Question: how do you protect a 5" x 9" screen from drops, bumps or scratches from keys inside of a handbag? Answer: use ANOTHER screen.

My prediction is that one of the innovations we'll be seeing from Apple's isn't a new device with just a single touchscreen... but two. The device's screens will be cleverly hinged together so that it folds shut, protecting the surface of each screen. Think I'm insane? Think Different. "Fold" two iPhones together and you'll begin to see what I'm talking about. The back side of the device is an excellent means of protecting the touch screen.

The iPhone grabbed people's imagination because it took a mobile device and innovated by doing away with a physical keyboard. Apple will do the same with a game-changing portable computer. Why have a physical keyboard if you don't need one? Instead, create a device with two touch screens and an accelerometer so the thing knows where it is in three-dimensional space. Open it up on a table and the visual keyboard will auto-appear on the lower half. Turn it on its upper half and the device will re-orient itself.

Or - and here's where Amazon officially takes a shit on themselves - turn the device sideways and you'll have a two sided, touch panel device that looks and works like a book. Read two full pages of text and then, with a swipe of your finger, flip to another two pages... This would easily overshadow the Kindle. Why have one device for reading a digital book and another for surfing the web? Or taking pictures? Or checking email? Or reading magazines? Which reminds me...

Innovation #2: Software, Software, Software
With the newspaper industry falling apart like, well, newspaper...something's gotta give. Apple's already repackaged music digitally in order to distribute it to the masses and reduce litter and waste. It can do the same with newspapers and, yes, magazines. I envision a new section of the iTunes stores that caters to novels, books and magazines. Why waste paper and purchase four or five magazines before your international flight to Fiji to visit Tony Robbins. Instead, you'll go to the iTunes store wirelessly and download the latest issues of each of your faves and not waste a sheet of paper.

Innovation #3: Gee, Gee, Gee... I wonder what it could be?
Three "Gee"s? Yes. The new device will sport 3G connectivity. And, for a monthly fee (Verizon's monthly 3G MiFi plan is $60/mo and is pretty god-damned great), you'll be able to surf the web even when away from a Wifi hotspot. With AT&T's exclusive on the iPhone coming to an end, this would be an excellent way to start doing business with Verizon. A recent Apple job posting hints at the company wanting to have a 3G expert on staff. And recent builds of Snow Leopard (10.6) include a WWAN listing in the system profiler. Are you ready to have the most annoying spokesman on the planet, pitch for Apple?

Innovation #4: Go stick it in your monitor. Seriously.
A while back, Apple patented a system whereby one can dock a small notebook computer INTO the body of a monitor to help (a) charge the device (b) transfer data to and from the device (c) save desk space (d) integrate with USB devices and (e) to look friggin' awesome. Look for this patent to now see the light of day as a simple way to charge the new device and sell additional, cool monitors.

Innovation #5: I've got blue teeth.
While it might be useful to have a USB port on the device to plug in a mouse, keyboard or other device, I wouldn't count on it. The iPhone 3.0 will support the A2DP bluetooth protocol and this new device will as well. This should allow just about ANYthing to connect wirelessly to this device: cars, stereos, GPS devices, headsets, mice, keyboards, and much, much more.

So there you have it, the experts' takes and my own. Now all we gotta do is wait and see what Apple delivers... and when. And for a guy like me that hates waiting, this is going to be the hardest part. Because, let's be honest: even a single second can seem to last forever.