[LINK] Apple iSlate: passport to the future of computing?

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Sun Jan 3 09:31:57 AEDT 2010

There is speculation that an Apple iSlate tablet computer is to be 
launched in late January: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISlate>.

I am less sceptical of this having spent some time seeing an Apple iPod 
Touch in use by a family. The smallest reasonable size for the iSlate 
would be  a six inch screen, twice the size of the Touch and and iPhone. 
This is the same size as the screen on the Amazon Kindle. However, 
unlike the Kindle, the iSlate is likely to have no physical keyboard and 
therefore be small enough for a large pocket or handbag.

Visiting a networked family recently, I was struck by how useful their 
Apple iPod Touch was. The family has a WiFi network, a desktop computer 
in the study and laptop which tends to sit on the coffee table, next to 
the controls for the Nintendo Wii. But the gadget that gets used most is 
an Apple iPod Touch, which tends to be on the kitchen bench or dining table.

The iPod is connected to the home wireless network. The iPod starts 
instantly, compared to about 20 seconds for the laptop. Also it is much 
more socially acceptable to use in a group of people, as it looks like a 
mobile phone. It takes only a few seconds to turn theiPod on, go to the 
web browser and look something up. The screen is large enough for 
looking at the bus timetable. This makes prospects for the rumoured 
Apple i-Slate tablet computer very good.

Something like an iPod touch, but with a screen the size of a paperback 
book would seem to be a winner. Exactly how large a screen such a device 
should have is an interesting question. The iPod Touch (and iPhone) have 
a screen which is about size of a credit card, which is one of the 
standard sizes for international documents (ID-1 format: 85.60 × 53.98 
mm): <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_7810#ID-1>.

The next standard size up would be that of a passport: 125 × 88 mm (ID-3 
format or ISO B7): <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_7810#ID-3>.
This would be about twice the size of the iPod Touch screen and the 
smallest reasonable size for the Apple iSlate. It would allow for a 6 
inch screen, which is the size of the screen on the International 
Version of Amazon Kindle e-Book reader. A device this size would still 
fit in many larger pockets and in handbags. This is no coincidence, as 
passports are the size they are so that they will fit in a pocket or 
handbag, which is in turn sized to fit a human hand. Making the device 
this size would also allow it to be held comfortably in one hand. While 
modern electronics have allowed the size of many devices to shrink, 
these are still limited by natural units of measure, such as the size of 
a hand.

Such a small screen will not be suitable for everything. The iSlate will 
presumably have a USB interface. If plugged into a keyboard and mouse, 
the iSlate would be usable for entering more text. If interfaced to a 
large screen, such as a flat screen TV or LCD computer monitor and this 
would provide enough computing power for a web terminal. Apple may be 
reluctant to support this as it would undercut sales of their laptop and 
desktop computers. The iPhone and iPod Touch have a USB interface, but a 
keyboard is not supported (they also have a low resolution video out).


Tom Worthington FACS HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Lecturer, The Australian National University t: 02 61255694
Computer Science http://cs.anu.edu.au/people.php?StaffID=140274

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