Apple’s Tablet As Evolution

I’m getting more and more excited as Apple’s keynote event on Wednesday draws nearer, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of a successful large, touch-screen device. First off, there’s the idea of what this means to Apple’s business. If this tablet device proves to be what every wants it to be, somewhere between a Macbook and an iPhone with a touch screen and seamless typing, then they’ll have a hit on their hands. But what I’m curious about is where they go after that?

Take for example the iPod Touch, which is know poaching the sales of all the earlier models of iPods because it offers so much more. Sure, it doesn’t hold as much music, but your old iPod can’t play games or browse the web. So what if we apply that same formula to a touch-screen tablet. If Apple can create a computer that’s in the same ballpark of a Macbook, but is smaller, lighter, keyboard-less, isn’t it possible the same could hold true?

In the most recent issue of Wired magazine Steven Levy writes about the impending doom of the mouse. Apple is increasing touch sensitive technology in al of their products, from the trackpad on their laptops, to the recently unveiled Mighty Mouse, and obviously with the iPhone, which doesn’t even need a stylus. What this really means, and as Mr. Levy says, touch sensitive devices are clearly around the corner, it’s just a matter of time until we apply the technology in the appropriate ways.

Which brings me to my second idea, which concerns the greater computing community. If Apple can create a functional device more on par with a laptop, won’t that be a signal to the big manufacturers that they’ve got to play some serious catch-up? At Microsoft’s most recent keynote they touted everything as slates and tablets, though they were all lackluster. Despite having touch screens they all still ran a standard Windows operating system and I doubt anyone would call any of them innovative.

They’ve also recently showed off a mockup of a new device called Courier, which looked promising. But one major hurdle that I saw was that it used a stylus, which to me seems antiquated, especially in a world of iPhones. Do you really want to hand write messages on your computer? Isn’t that what Sticky and Field Notes are for? Plus there’s always the chance you’ll lose the damn thing.

When Apple release the iPhone it opened the floodgates for a new market of touch-screen phones. If they can yet again be just as successful, I’d predict just about the very same thing happening.

Bobby

14 Comments Apple’s Tablet As Evolution

  1. Chris January 25, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    Bobby,

    I agree with your sentiments regarding a stylus and we’ve witnessed a lot of disgust for the idea over the past weeks. However, I would say that a stylus is crucial for a certain set of functions including drawing and taking notes. I know that for me, the cognitive process of writing notes is infinitely faster than typing (physical or software keyboard). I feel there is a disconnect when I type; I retain more knowledge writing by hand. And if Apple can provide an improved handwriting recognition engine, all the better. As for drawing, this would replace a Wacom tablet overnight; enough said.

    Sidenote, I’ve been thinking about the Genius function in iTunes…what if tablet users could opt-in to a Genius handwriting program (and maybe a voice recognition program too)…just food for thought.

    Best Regards :D

  2. Alphonse January 25, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    I’ll wait until they reveal this thing, but at this point it seems unnecessary. Hopefully Apple surprises me.

  3. Pingback: B+S Notes—January 25, 2010

  4. Steve Love January 25, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Some of the problems that touch screens need to overcome are laid out in a video demonstration by 10/GUI. For example, your hand gets in the way and obscures the screen while you’re touching it. Also, if you have to make large motions across a screen it speeds up the onset of fatigue. I’ll be interested to see whether or not these issues arise when people start using Apple’s tablet.

  5. BobbyBobby January 25, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    @Chris – You’re right, a stylus would be necessary to draw on a tablet, and having a Wacom tablet computer would be really awesome. But I don’t think they’ll be going in that direction… yet. If whatever they release is really works well I could see that being a potential application.

    For me handwriting recognition is kind of silly. Writing down my notes on paper is the most instantaneous way of taking and retrieving notes, I don’t need my computer to do it for me.

    @Alphonse – I wouldn’t say it’s unnecessary at all. With that train of though you could say that we should never release a new laptop ever again, the ones we have now are perfectly fine. The point of the post is to view touchscreen tablets as an evolutionary step, not a new product niche.

    @Steve – Yeah, that’s a great video with a lot of solid ideas. But if the device in question is more in line with the size of a book or magazine there should be minimal fatigue involved, and my guess would be that you’d hold it in a comfortable position. We’ll find out in two days.

  6. Robert January 25, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Apple has definitely made the biggest ripple in the technology world in the past few years. I’ve never seen so many devices come out at one time to try and rival the iPhone. It created this frenzy of ideas upon ideas that has sparked a new way to interact with our mobile devices.

    I think this is Apple’s next big ripple, and as much as I’m excited to see what they have planed I am also looking forward to direction other companies will take it.

  7. Justin January 25, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    I have a hard time seeing the practicalities of a device like this. Who is the end user? It all sounds exciting, in theory, but only in theory.

    As a mac person in general, sure I am excited to see what they come up with, but part of me is also very skeptical that the tablet is the wave of the future.

    The big question, which no one seems to debate really, is how will people compose text, email, docs, etc? Beyond 140 characters and beyond search terms. When I ask how, I also mean, literally how? On their lap, hunched over a table? It seems ergonomically awkward, no? Does anyone else question this? Ok so maybe you get a bluetooth keyboard, but then what you prop the screen up? This line of questioning applies to PC tablets as well.

    And while the iPhone is great, I have to admit, I have a hard time imagining a larger version of the touch screen keyboard to be anything but frustrating.

    I think I’d be glad if they just came out with a smaller, lighter, cheaper macbook air. Is it me or is everyone blinded by the Wizard’s big head, and loud voice in this case?

  8. BobbyBobby January 25, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    @Justin – I think anyone who uses a computer is the end user. If Apple wouldn’t make something if they didn’t think it would sell.

    I think a lot of people are discussing how you’ll input text, I think that’s the biggest point of all. How they deal with text input will make or break this device, if it is a tablet. Remember how people complained about how weird it was to type on an iPhone? I don’t hear any of that anymore.

    As for awkward ergonomics, do you have this same problem with a book or magazine? People have figured out how to make them work, like propping up a knee or sitting back to read them.’

    I don’t think you’re imagining hard enough, but that’s what we have Apple for.

  9. Justin January 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    Such faith, Bobby.

    People still complain about typing on an iPhone, but it’s a shortcoming that is now mostly overlooked. Every iPhone user I know admits that they don’t much like typing anything too lengthy on the iPhone.

    A book or a magazine is a single purpose product, you can’t do anything more than read it or flip the pages. Sure you can write in the margins, but that is it. I don’t think that makes a very good analogy. We are talking about a computer here that is interactive, and will support doing more than passively engaging.

    I guess I would like to see a bit more healthy skepticism about this and many other things Apple does.

    Let’s be Macs, but let’s also be objective.

  10. Jason January 26, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    Such good comments here all around.

    Independent of functionality, I feel price will be a fairly large component. With netbooks leveling off at the $300 range, I have a hard time understanding how an over-sized iPhone at $600 will fill a need. Granted there are thousands (10’s of thousands?) of die hard apple users that will snatch these up; I find it curious Apple didn’t instead strive for a mini Macbook, priced competitively. ($400-$600) Something has to be said for corroding your brand, but if the goal is to sell units, this perplexes me.

    There is no argument that Apple has been the leader of personal device innovation in the past 10 years, but they haven’t been without their stumbles (Apple TV, the ROKR, the Newton, Apple Cube to name a few). I also have no doubt that some day in the near future touch screen applications and computing will be widely utilized, but I also see this market growing proportionately with generation Y (and the generation thereafter) becoming foundations of the business world. As of 2010, this is not the case.

    Moreover, Apple has realized there is a saturation point with their devices. This seems to constantly drive their innovation and product refresh strategy. I’m not suggesting that they launch products for the sake of launching them, but an argument could be made that owners of an iPhone, Macbook, iPod and/or iMac are more apt to buy a iTablet before many other market segments.

  11. Sebastian January 27, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    In the age applefication I see individualism disappearing. Go to a dinner party with self respecting designers and/or hipsters and you can be shure there will be at least half a dozen of iphones on the table. Ask them what they use them for, the answer will “making calls”, “sending messages” and “taking occasional photos”. Anything an other phone won’t do? What happened to it’s potential?

  12. BobbyBobby January 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    @Sebastian – This is such a jackass comment. I’m guessing by your use of “designers and hipsters” you mean smart people who get it? They (we) use iPhones because they’re the best product on the market.

    You’ve clearly never used an iPhone before, or you wouldn’t be leaving a stupid comment like this.

  13. Sebastian January 27, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Ouch!

  14. Jason January 27, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Rawrrr!

    (but nailing it)

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