Why We Will Be Disappointed in the Apple Tablet

Assuming this upcoming Apple event January 27th is actually about the so called (mythical) Apple Tablet then yes I have a sense we may feel disappointment. Why? Partly because there is so much wild speculation and expectation surrounding this charming yet mythical new device.  I remember seeing devices like this at Disney World where there was a display of the future home. People sitting around with some kind of thin electronic tablet being entertained in some way. Talk is cheap, mockups are easy. Creating a real product that does things we’ve never done before – well that’s the kind of legendary design work Apple is known for and so often the source of unbridled speculation.

Surely some things seem possible at this point if you connect the dots. Apple is interested in being a catalyst for other companies to publish e-books and e-magazines and in doing so make their Tablet the next iPod of print media as it did with traditional audio media. Reading a lot content on an iPhone is an act of faith and carrying around a laptop all over the house just becomes weirdly impractical with a laptop. Yes we all do it but, it’s not ideal.  I have chargers scattered around the home as a result. Devices like the Amazon Kindle are portable with long battery life but who wants a black and white e-reader only. Hence all the excitement about Apple’s mythical tablet device which would be more fun, have video, utilize touch gesturing controls and capitalize on Apple’s ability to get big companies with lots of existing content to feed content into it. We’re hearing hints of this all over the news starting to emerge before the launch.  So yes I want more though then a dedicated e-book reader and a larger screen then an iPhone to read news, browse the Internet and enjoy video.  With audio there is no issue as Apple has the user interface designed to our liking.
Truthfully I too have my hopes and desires for this mythical tablet because I’m thinking of it as a device for sharing content (print, audio, video, Internet sites) more seamlessly from desktop to laptop to iphone to my theater room and with others around me. But I can see regardless of how amazing the device may be,  it’s going to fall short of all the hyperbolic speculation that bloggers seem to endlessly want to write about and likely mine too. There will be disappointment.
Reminds me of when I was a kid thinking about my birthday. Once it came and it was over somehow the feeling afterwards wasn’t nearly as fun as the build up and the presents though nice just didn’t match my hopes. We’ll have this let down too. There will be things we want it to do that will just not occur. As much as I love Apple I’m sure there will be some weird thing they do that you just go ‘ huh’ what the heck? Like the first iPhone with that absolutely stupid decision to use a non standard headphone adapter. Remember? You couldn’t use your headphones with it. Bet you forgot about that. There is always something.
The deal is Apple does so much right you forget about those little design clunkers. I’m sure there will be a few here.  On the dreamy side of things the final design of this mythical device will not do things we hope it might. For example, give you the ability to sit in your living room and have the tablet work seamlessly with your TV in some fashion (assuming there is some kind of wireless base station for it).  I want the tablet to be a kind of handheld wireless window(s) on the the Internet which acts like an AppleTV only you can pull whatever kind of content you want from the Internet using your fingers and have it play on the TV and also be a kind of remote control for the TV.  Or better have two or three of your friends in the same room each with a tablet and be able to switch back and forth between yourselves as you easily place movies and websites on the TV while talking about the media.  Now we are talking real power of collaboration and  some real fun. Reminds me of the days you took pictures and came home and passed around those things called prints. Remember how easy that was? Why can’t it be that easy with a computer?  What a hassle it is in a conference room to hook up your laptop, get it going, bring up a browser, get the video to play, make the Internet work and don’t even TRY to share content with others in the room. If you could seamlessly share whatever is on your screens from one person to the next on a single projector then you could actually have a real multimedia type collaboration process. And be able to pass the content around from device to device like you passed around printed pictures and write on notes on the the back.
Likely this kind of capability isn’t going to happen. But what will occur is something close I predict (well ok I’m wishing). Let’s face it the only practical thing that will occur January 27th is Apple will announce a new version of the iPhone OS – version 4.0. They need to do this to blunt the advancement of Google DNA phones that are slowly gaining in popularity and capability. And Google is Apple’s only real threat now not Nokia which has sadly fallen back to the worst trick in the book when you get behind your competitor – sue the competition.  Clearly a sign of problems for them.  Blackberry is so set in their approach that I don’t seem them affecting the growing popularity of iPhone popularity anytime soon.  But Google has nothing to  [ ‘lose’ (you typed loose, like a loose shoe lace ], everything to gain and a willingness to fail until they get it right – with multiple versions from different companies. It’s tough going against that kind of competition.
What I see happening is Steve Jobs coming out to talk about the 4.0 iPhone OS update planned though we will not get to use it for a couple more months I assume. Lots of goodies there including sharing of content more seamlessly with your macbooks and desktops is what I’m hoping for. A more seamless connection would be nice so you’re not always going through iTunes and a host of little iPhone app vendors to reach inside the iPhone. Maybe so, maybe not, we’ll see. More likely iPhone OS 4.0 will have a lot of more control over how use contacts as the center of your universe and a better form of multitasking for at least the 3Gs and whatever is the next iPhone. Whatever we’re seeing on competing smart phones will likely quickly be available on iPhones and possibly more. Though that niggling issue of real multitasking of applications on the iPhone is not likely to happen until the next generation. But on the mythical tablet well that could be reality for now until the next generation iPhone.
So this iPhone OS 4.0 update will be the basis of the new Tablet.   The question of why have a tablet if it’s just a big iPhone? Well if there is a seamless, wireless screen type sharing connection of content across your desktop and your Tablet then you would have a better reason to have both. If there was a way to run multiple applications at the same time with multiple windows on the tablet – that would get my attention and transfer calls possibly between the devices.  There is the opportunity to have some real synergy if the content sharing idea I’m talking about was possible. You can just swipe and move any kind of Internet content between the devices without retyping URLs to see the same thing. Have you used the Magic Mouse? Use one for about 15 minutes and you just can’t keep your hands off it. A lovely device that just works so well with your fingers. Imagine having one that allows a finger swipe to move content easily between your tablet and your desktop. Now imagine having your Tablet and saying wow I want to work more with this content and with a few swipes of your finger(s) it just slides back over to your desktop (or laptop). Likely this is what iLife 2010 and or iWork 2010 might make possible (for now).
Add in the ability use a bluetooth keyboard and voice commands and a webcam and yes, I could see owning this mythical tablet.  But just being a jumbo iPhone that runs the same apps only bigger – I don’t think so.
Likely Jobs will get a great deal of attention from the Apple crowd during the introduction of the Tablet and I’m hoping to see some of these things in my overly excited state of expectation. These are the kinds of product features that make sense to me and create a unique synergy between all your Apple products and if Apple does it right with Windows PCs too. And these are the kinds of features you buy Apple products for and give the competition heart ache.
Or maybe we’ll all be heart broken when the reality of what is shown somehow doesn’t actually match up with our expectations. We’ll see soon enough.
What do you think?
Tom
image by Adam Benton www.kromekat.com
Commissioned by MacLife magazine

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