MacSparky’s Tablet Musings

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:

  • heavy,
  • large,
  • slow to boot,
  • ran extremely hot on my lap, and
  • the battery life was dreadful.
  • 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:

  • Reading/Research
  • Sharing
  • Organization
  • Surfing
  • Entertainment
  • Writing(?)
  • Editing Documents
  • The App Store
  • 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.

    Really Good Vapourware

    I think you will enjoy this 7 Apple principles article from a blog (The eBook Test) that covers iTablet rumours and commentary.

    You also might like this concept video.
    Kind of reminds a person of Apple’s much older Network Navigator concept video doesn’t it?

    There is also this fake video of what some people think the iTablet will look like.

    In the January 2010 edition of MacLife there are also some more speculative fantasy design concepts from brainstorming Mac experts. My favourites are the iRead (yet another ebook reader concept but with a projector included in the spine) and the iVision (eyeglasses with augmented reality Heads Up Displays). If you can imagine it, someday it might be built but not this year.

    If you are considering buying a Kindle or Nook, it might be best to wait a little bit to see if the 2010 iTablet launch rumours are true.

    Why JooJoo may not critically savage the Apple Tablet

    Why JooJoo may critically savage the Apple Tablet

    (Via Daring Fireball through Tech Generation Daily.)

    Quite the soap opera regarding the introduction of the JooJoo tablet this Friday which was originally conceived as the Crunchpad before the failed partnership. Does the predicted JooJoo failure sour the tablet market for Apple? This can be argued both ways.

    Sure it might start additional critical thinking about tablets but it is not like there haven’t been other precedents. It might also have a beneficial affect of serving as a contrast point on what Apple potentially will do differently. It is not like Fusion Garage and Apple have similar assets to bring to the table and it is all pretty speculative how the products will compare.

    It is also important to recognize that Apple’s strength is not just a well designed product but equally important is the business model (30-70 split?), integrated services, and platform that support it. This is especially important since we have seen with previous technologies like the VCR that the quantity and quality of content can trump technical specs. To what extent can Apple leverage iTunes and the App store to expand its success into an innovative new platform? I think providing a larger screen has implications beyond just a new form factor as it supports expansion into the ebook market and casual watching of movies and other LP content in new ways.

    Nook eReader Comparison with Kindle and Sony

    Nook Review: Comparison with Kindle and Sony eReaders

    (Via Technologizer.)

    Apparently available in Canada with price that matches those for Kindle. Nook has the advantage of better page turning and a colour LCD for navigation. The hardware doesn’t have major flaws and is upgradeable. The software needs improvements but regular updates are planned.

    Forrester 2010 Ereader predictions + the Missing Apple

    Forrester 2010 Ereader predictions

    (Via Forrester Research.)

    As noted in the comments major points missed in the predictions are creativity in dynamic content and the impact of rumoured multifunction devices (aka iTablet). Clearly Forrester wanted to avoid the rumour mill of this mythical device. With relation to dynamic content this is primarily an adaptation of existing web standards to a tablet form factor and interface. Ease of use of the interface will be extremely important to determine the market share of the iTablet vs. dedicated ebook readers. 2010 will be a very interesting (chinese curse?) year for ereader purchasers with so many new models with different technologies and business models.

    Another interesting dynamic is whether the consumer or prosumer model will be more successful.

    Conventional wisdom is that the TV model will apply with most ereader users being consumers with ease of use the most important attribute. litl is an innovative example of this approach.

    The prosumer model will differentiate by giving ereader users at least some tools for creating content for themselves and others. There is some speculation that Apple may be taking this approach with a new version of iDVD to support LP content. I really like the prosumer approach provided it doesn’t overcomplicate the everyday use of the device. Isn’t providing simple tools to allow everyday Joes to be creative and productive what iLife is for? I think it is possible to have the best of both worlds even though professional authoring tools may work better on large screen desktops. It isn’t hard to imagine a tablet with a stand and bluetooth keyboard being used to do light document creation at the desk and using the touch interface on the coach or the road. With the right software it might even able to function as a graphics tablet that works with the large screen desktop. That sounds to me to be a winning combination for a multifunction device. That would be enough to establish a new distinctive platform to be worth a premium price that is Apple’s speciality.

    Kindle Now Available in Canada

    Kindle is now available in Canada amidst growing competition.

    Canada

    We are excited to now ship Kindle to Canada. Customers in Canada will enjoy:
    Books in Under 60 Seconds: Think of a book and you could be reading it in under a minute

    Free Wireless: Free 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle. No monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots. For non-U.S. customers, there are also no additional charges for wireless delivery in or outside your home country. See Coverage Map. See Wireless Terms and Conditions

    Growing Selection: Over 300,000 English-language books to choose from; plus U.S. and international newspapers and magazines are available for your country. Because publishers give us eBook rights on a country by country basis, available titles for your country will vary from our current U.S selection. We are actively working with publishers to get the rights to all titles for every country and adding this selection every day. Check the Kindle Store to see available titles.

    Low Book Prices: New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99, unless marked otherwise. You’ll also find many books for less – over 100,000 titles are priced under $5.99

    Learn more about Kindle features on the Kindle product page

    Important Product Information for Your Country
    Your international shipment is subject to customs duties, import taxes and other fees levied by the destination country. We will show you these fees upon checkout. Learn more
    Kindle ships with a U.S. power adapter and a micro-USB cable for charging your Kindle via a computer USB port. The U.S. power adapter supports voltages between 100V – 240V.
    You can transfer personal documents to your Kindle via USB for free at anytime. Wireless delivery of personal documents is currently not available. Learn more
    Wireless download times can vary based on 3G or EDGE/GPRS coverage, signal strength and file size.
    Kindle books, newspapers, and magazines are currently priced and sold in United States dollars
    Blogs and the experimental web browser are currently not available for your country. You will have free access to Wikipedia.
    Kindle includes a 1-year limited warranty. See details
    Use of the Kindle is subject to the Kindle License Agreement and Terms of Use

    Price is $259 USD and the total comes up to $311 once you pay shipping and custom fees. This is exciting news for those who like to get books quickly and have a portable library. As the announcement mentions it could take a while for Canadian content selection to grow and unfortunately the web browser isn’t available. I think it is a significant missing feature that you can’t transfer personal documents wirelessy. For a full list of included and not included features see the Canadian Kindle review. It is a real positive that this choice is now available in Canada but some may choose to see what alternatives emerge in the next few months when the choices may become more clear.