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

Ivan Trundle ivan at itrundle.com
Sun Jan 3 11:31:52 AEDT 2010

On 03/01/2010, at 9:31 AM, Tom Worthington wrote:

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

Some select iPhone developers have been asked to build apps for the device, based on existing iPhone/iPod touch devices - it isn't too hard if you build with scalability in mind, but most app developers only build for the existing pixel displays offered in the iPod/iPhone family. Speculation about what OS will be running is rife, too: somewhere between the OS in laptops/desktops and the stripped-bare iPhone/iPod touch OS - it will offer multi-tasking, though - and linked to the iTunes app/music/video/tv show/audiobook/etc delivery method.

> 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.

The screen is most likely going to be either 7" diagonal or 10" - or both. So says the gossips at the suppliers' end.

> Visiting a networked family recently, I was struck by how useful their 
> Apple iPod Touch was. 

Speaking from a family with at least 5 iPod touch or iPhone devices, I can attest to their usefulness. However, much of the usefulness comes from the apps that are available and optimised for the device: they are on a different level to most other apps on smartphones etc, if only because they work with certain design and functionality expectations. Watching a 3-yr old using such a device is a true revelation, though there are YouTube videos of dogs using them, too (seriously).

> <snip> 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.

I'd say that this is extremely unlikely. The iPhone/iPod touch family has been lauded for being able to use it with one hand, but I doubt very much if the iSlate/iGuide/i<insert name here> (iGuide might be the OS, but Apple have also registered this name) will be that small: far too much speculation to date has focussed on larger devices, and further speculation abounds that the device will usurp the laptop/netbook in time: just as the laptop has overtaken the desktop market.

> 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.

Alas, this is highly doubtful, other than the standard 40-pin port. Apple have a penchant for minimal ports, and a disdain for cables. Bluetooth is the most likely option: they already offer bluetooth keyboards and mice, so it is logical that these will be part of a package if people resist the use of a software keyboard (Apple have a vested interest in enhancing the development of software keyboards - their recent patents on tactile/haptic feedback through a touch screen will prove to be interesting in future hardware development).

Having said that, NO-ONE (outside of a very small group within Apple) has seen a device yet, and all discussions that Apple have held with publishers and others have reputedly have not involved any discussion over the hardware at all. So if people like Rafe Needleman are being quoted as offering judgements in the wikipedia article, this is pure speculation. Others, such as Kai-fu Lee (ex-president Google China, and close ties to Foxconn) has also blogged about the device, yet he hasn't seen it either.

> 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. 

Their marketing strategy is to offer all options listed: the price points for each device are already set in stone (so a little birdie in Apple told me over the past week), and they are being very careful to offer attractive price-points and functionality across a small range of devices: overall, they see better value in offering FEWER choices, and it appears to work.

It's interesting that the wikipedia article assumes that it will compete with the Kindle etc - this is extremely unlikely. Apple are going for a different market entirely, but the device will have the functionality of an e-book reader and more (just like the iPhone/iPod touch is an e-book reader now).

Many have wondered if such a device will compete with ANY computing platform or form factor at all: but Apple (in recent years) never jumps into a market without a fair degree of certainty that it will prove profitable for them.

Either way, we will know by 27 January Australian time.


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