MacSparky has some musings on the upcoming tablet based on his previous experience with a Windows tablet that ultimately wasn’t successful because of the following hardware factors:
Many inventions have a history of precedents that didn’t work until there was finally enough breakthroughs to make them successfully. These breakthroughs aren’t always just better technology. To solve the problems listed won’t really be the breakthrough in my opinion. This is just eliminating “obvious” flaws.
Equally important, in my view, is refining the concept to not try to do everything. It is not necessary to try to replace something else completely since people are willing to have specialized devices like the Kindle for example. I think Apple will come up with a more general purpose and flexible device than the Kindle but it should focus on a few things it is suited for well and to be able to complement (e.g. interwork) with other devices that are a better match for other use cases. There definitely is a sweet spot available between a single function specialized device and a general purpose computer.
MacSparky provides a handy list of the use cases that a tablet could add value to with the right software implementation:
I particularly like the points about how annotating and editing are not the same as writing or volume text entry. The same could also be applied to creating a drawing/image from scratch vs editing or tweaking. The distinction here is between meeting the needs of:
1. Prosumer content creators (primarily on desktops and laptops)
2. Consumers of media and
3. Prosumer enhancers and customizers
by enabling the tablet to use unique features to work on the formats created previously on another device with different capabilities. If the tablet can do the last 2 out of 3 better than anything else that ain’t bad.
This might be implemented by offering all the creation capabilities currently in iLife/iWork but “just” supplementing them with some multitouch features particularly best suited to the tablet in an innovative new way. It is not that difficult to imagine content being created on one device like a desktop or laptop but being annotated or otherwise being enhanced using multitouch on the tablet. The software challenge would be to make the features best suited to the device’s capabilities readily available without cluttering up the simplicity of the interface with features that should be possible but that won’t be used in that context on that device as often. This is the challenge for a Onenote+ (Oneupmanship?) software integration on the Apple tablet.
It is also getting more common for people to have multiple monitors and touch pads. There is potential for a complementary monitor and touch pad for multimedia if the software and integration is done right. We are in the early days regarding how a touch interface could be used creatively for specialized applications to modify content in conjunction with or separately from other devices. I too (like Don McAllister) like the example of watching a screencast while following along on your main computer. Think of the educational opportunities!
MacSparky references the PCWorld article that is already predicting that the Apple tablet won’t be successful for business. I think the main mistakes being made by the PCWorld article are the mindset that the tablet has to be a general purpose computing device to be valuable and underestimating the breakthroughs Apple will introduce.
It’s going to be too expensive, it does things you don’t need to do, and it will add a messy layer of complication to your company’s computing infrastructure.
Bill Snyder, PCWorld
Prediction: John Gruber has already commented but he is going to have a lot more fun with this quote over on Daring Fireball once Apple announces its plans.
I don’t doubt that the tablet will be premium priced, that is the Apple way, but their success has shown that a premium price doesn’t matter if you deliver the value. Review the use cases for a tablet done right – many people need to do these things especially if it is easier and they can be enabled/inspired to do more due to the ease of use. As for adding a messy layer of complication – well innovation is like that and how complicated it is depends on the software and integration which are yet to be seen.
Apple didn’t wait this long to unleash this creation just to introduce another me too tablet. It won’t all be there on day 1 but I am hoping that the announcement will give enough hints about what is coming that it can spark a whole new round of speculation on the brave new future.