I have been more than a bit quiet about the whole hubbub surrounding the potential for Apple announcing a tablet sometime in 2010. Part of it has to do with the fact that I’ve gotten so caught up in the rumors in the past… only to be disappointed each time. I don’t like being disappointed and am trying to avoid it happening yet again.
More than that, however, I have tried to avoid getting caught up in the rumor mill, because for the entire time that I’ve been involved in the blogging world one of the things that has been consistent has been the fact that, no matter how many rumors emerge about Apple’s upcoming devices, they are inevitably wrong. The rumors may get some aspect about the device correct, but by and large they tend to miss the overall picture of the device and the impact it may or may not have. In other words, while there are real leaks that you can build a rumor around in other markets, Apple continues to have enough control over their communication to ensure that anything we’re being told right now is nothing more than a guess. It isn’t even an educated guess. It’s more like an educated, “I wish, really hope for, please let it be true, shot in the dark” guess.
All this noted… I can’t keep quiet any longer. No, I’m just too excited over the possibility of an Apple tablet and I want to tell you why.
Whether you call the Apple Tab, an iTablet, iSlate or “iWe’veDreamedOfThisDeviceForSoFrigginLong” doesn’t matter. If Apple does indeed release a 7 to 10 inch tablet computer, it is going to change everything. Here are a few reasons why.
Kindle? What’s A Kindle???
I like my Kindle. I really do. But the refresh rate of eInk is little more than frustrating, and the navigation of the device is at best a compromise. It is the best thing going right now, but it is FAR from ideal. I like my Kindle and enjoyed using on vacation recently. Even so, I find myself reading more often on my iPhone or my iPod touch using the Kindle app than I do on the Kindle itself. No, those devices don’t have the same screen real estate as the Kindle. They don’t have the superb black-and-white contrast that the Kindle has, and they certainly don’t have the same “it’s almost like reading a book” experience that the Kindle has. But I still use them more often than not.
Why? The navigation is a breeze thanks to the touch screen. The ability to move from page to page or to change the fonts is superb. I have the device with me all the time so that if I can grab a minute to read it is there waiting. Not so with the Kindle. The only downside in fact is that the screen is so small. Still, overall, I find the experience to be quite nice.
If Apple releases a device that looks like an iPhone or iPod touch but has a 7 to 10 inch screen the one element that’s lacking for me right now– screen size– is removed. If that happens, there is no way I will ever use my Kindle again.
Better still, right now my iPhone and my iPod touch give me access to Amazon’s library and Barnes & Noble’s library and the reader library and more. Unlike the Kindle or the Nook, with an Apple tablet I might need two or three applications, but with those applications I have access to pretty much any platform I might want.
I had the opportunity to read the book Level 26 on my iPod touch recently. It was a new experience for me, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it. The approach was simple — after every three or four chapters of the book there would be a short video clip that move the story forward. After reading the book what I think? I absolutely love it. The combination of text and video works for me. No, it may not be ideal for a purist, but for many of us– those of us who sneaked downstairs Saturday afternoons to watch The Saint and it Takes A Thief on Channel 9 rather than read a book… for those of us who love TV and movies but also love reading… it’s a nice combination. And when it’s done well, the way it was with this particular story, video-books could be fantastic.
I have been subscribing to magazines using the Zinio.com service for years. I enjoy reading magazines on my iMac and especially on the various tablet PCs I’ve owned over the years. The experience is excellent. The color images are crisp, the text is relatively easy to read, and the fact that the links to products are live links that bring you right to the product page with one click, adds a dimension that you could never experience with the regular paper magazines. The technology for the magazines is all but perfected thanks to Zinio. Until now, however, the delivery system hasn’t been.
The Kindle doesn’t work for magazines. Magazines rely on color pictures and a visual experience that a black-and-white presentation can never match. Magazines don’t work in the iPhone and the iPod touch. The device screens are just too small for the type of presentation than a magazine requires. (Trust me, I used a Beta version of a Zinio app and my advice to them was… DON’T RELEASE IT.) Magazines DO work rather well on a Tablet PC using Zinio’s app. The problem here is the fact that the device is often way too much, have relatively short battery life, and tend to get a bit hot because of the processors used.
Give me the same screen real estate, with great battery life, low power consumption and heat, and the touchscreen and you have a perfect magazine replacement. Give me an Apple tablet and a Zinio app and… eMags have a perfect home! Anything from 7 to 10 inches produced by Apple work and will breathe new life into the dying world of magazines.
News and RSS feeds
I find myself using my iPhone and iPod touch more and more to read RSS feeds or catch up on the news. It’s just so convenient to grab the device that I’m always using to read them. The screen is relatively small, but it works quite well. It’ll work far better, however, on a screen that is twice as large as the one I am currently using. The promise of Apple’s tablet holds out the ability to use larger fonts or to have 2 to 3 times more content per screen or to have both. Such a device would quickly replace all of the other methods for accessing news and RSS feeds that many of us currently employ.
TV and Movies
The iPhone and the iPod touch have relatively small screens. There are no two ways about it, the screens are small. They were never meant to be primary media consumption vehicles. They work in a pinch, but they’re not intended to be the primary device. To overcome the limitations there had been some great innovations. For example, if you can get past looking like George Laforge from Star Trek you can get a Myvu Crystal that makes it seem as if you are in front of a 50″ TV. Yes, you still have to deal with the high expense of the glasses, the need to carry them with you, and the eyestrain (that might not be an issue if you’re in your 20s, but if you’re in your mid-late 40s trust me it becomes a consideration), but they do work. Things change if you have a device that 7 to 10 inch screen however. On a 7 to 10 inch screen I will be perfectly happy watching a TV show or movie. And if I can easily connect with that device to my television when I get home (the way I can and often do with my iPod already), I’ll have a device that can become a central media hub almost immediately. An Apple Tablet from 7 to 9″ large would make TV on the go even more common-place. And if Apple introduces new subscriptions TV services as is rumored… watch out! And you thought TiVo changed things? You ain’t seen nothing.
Add to all this the fact that an AppleTablet will either run OS X (and therefore run various Mac applications), or as is more likely, OS iPhone — offering access to the huge catalogue already available in the App Store, and suddenly you have a device that does SO much more. I can imagine writing a document in DocsToGo using Dragon Dictation. I would then add an image that I took with the camera and edited using Photogene. I would also attach a video I took and edited using ReelDirector and, before sending, add my GPS coordinates. All from a device the size of a paperback. Oh, and when I was done working I would break out I Dig I 2 (LOVE THIS GAME!!!) and do some more exploring.
The bottom line is this –
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself “I love using my iPhone or my iPod touch, but I just wish the screen was 50% or even 100% bigger than it is.” A larger screen would make reading more enjoyable. It would make watching TV shows and movies that much better. It would make the Kindle obsolete just two years after its release. And it would bring the promise of electronic magazines further than we could otherwise hope. All of this alone makes the Apple tablet, or slate — or whatever Apple decides to call it — something I truly want to own.
Better still, this doesn’t take into account the fact that if Apple finally decides to bring such a device to market it will exceed expectations. It will offer an interface that we can’t yet imagine. It will offer a way to access and experience content that isn’t within our current range of experience. It will, like the iPhone, be it transformative device that moves us into the next generation of electronic and the media era. And like the iPhone its true impact, the true degree to which it is revolutionary will only be discovered after the initial “oohs and ahhs” that echo after Steve pulls back the curtain on the device.
Whatever the device is that Apple is preparing to share with the world, if it is going to happen at all, is going to be a bigger deal than any of us can possibly imagine. I’m excited to be going to CES. But I have to tell you that as excited as I am for what promises to be a great experience, it is what happens two weeks later that really has my attention right now.
Yes, as much as I promised myself I wouldn’t get sucked into the hype and excitement of the Apple tablet rumor mill, once again I’m drinking the Kool-Aid and it tastes great.