It looks like Apple might announce a tablet at the end of January, so this is my last chance to get in my predictions. What qualifications do I have? I’ve been following the news and rumors, and I’ve been writing Mac software professionally since 1985. I’ve got four apps on the App Store and more on the way. But no inside info. I just have fun predicting what Apple will do!
The tablet will merely:
- Replace the netback and the MacBook Air
- Replace the magazine, book, newspaper, personal media player, and the clipboard.
- Serve as a remote screen to your home computer
OK, it won’t replace every magazine and textbook. But it will open a very new, very major channel for distribution of newspaper, magazines, and books. The size of a sheet of paper, it will be a reader and note taker. It will be powerful to replace most notebooks, while being smaller and lighter. And it will be a great viewer for media and your home computer screen.
Screen and Case
I have been predicting a 7.75″ diagonal 720p screen, but many rumors have said there will be a 10.1″ screen, so I’m going with that. I still believe they will go with a 16:9 HD aspect ratio, replacing the 16:10 ratio in most Mac screens.
So there will be a 10.1″ display at 720p resolution and aspect ratio. The case will be about the same thickness as an iPhone. Like the iPhone, there will be no significant buttons, the front is all a multitouch screen.
Keyboard, Stylus, Mouse
Of course there is no physical keyboard. But the device will accept a Bluetooth keyboard.
A very significant addition is that it will accept a stylus. It will basically be a conductive pointy stick, cheap with no electronics or battery. Its tiny point of contact will be sensed as “ink” and you can draw with it or sign a document, as well as touch with it.
A Bluetooth mouse will be accepted, which will look to the device similar to a stylus, with the added ability to “hover” – unlike a finger or stylus, a mouse can specify a position without making “contact” (button-down). Thus, tooltips can appear when using a mouse.
One problem when using a stylus on a big screen like this is that you will tend to rest your palm or side of the hand on the screen. making the OS understand this isn’t a touch was a significant implementation hurdle.
There will be a user-facing camera and microphone. There will be tiny stereo speakers, and audio I/O jacks.
CPU, OS, Multitasking
The Mac OS currently runs on Macs, iPhones, and this tablet. The only difference between Desktop OS and iPhone OS is that the user interface layer was replaced, and a few modules were removed. For the tablet, some of the removed modules will be replaced. Ink, for example, to handle stylus input. Ink will be revised to work more smoothly with the stylus and OS as used on the tablet. Another module which will be added is Grand Central.
The CPU will be ARM based, multicore, and designed by Apple in California, unavailable on any non-Apple hardware. It will run all App binaries that were compiled for the iPhone.
The CPU will run much faster but battery life will be very good due to the very thin but big battery. The case is very thin but large in the other dimensions, making it very roomy in terms of cubic millimeters.
The system, like Mac OS and iPhone, will be fully multitasking. On the the tablet, unlike the iPhone OS, you will be able to run multiple third party Apps.
iPhone App Compatibility
Traditional iPhone apps will run in movable, layered, fixed-size 620 by 320 windows. You will be able to rotate these windows, and also zoom them to full screen. Many apps will look and work OK in full screen, though some will have glitches. You can set an app to always open in full screen if desired, but this is not the default.
To developers, the tablet pretty much looks like a newer iPhone model with bigger screen and updated OS. They can easily flag apps to open in full screen, take advantage of new hardware and software features, and let the same app run on both iPhone and tablet.
Media Reader and Viewer
There are already very good readers on the iPhone, like Stanza and Kindle, but an Apple reader will be built in, in the same way that QuickTime is built in to the iPhone developer apps can call on it. A new format for books, newspapers and magazines will be supported, perhaps an extension of the new iTunes LP format. Deals will be cut with publishers and reading, downloading, and subscribing to publications, and this will be the major marketing emphasis for the tablet – the game-changing replacement for newspapers, magazines, books, and print media.
Viewing of media will be the main purpose of the tablet, and that is not just reading, but media as well. Publications that are print based, such as a newspaper, will integrate video and interactive media in their electronic equivalents.
Viewing of video will be important, as here you have a good size screen with native 720p HD resolution. As with the iPhone you can obtain and view movies, TV programs and video, but a new ability will be built in, and in essence it will be Apple Remote Desktop.
Very easy screen sharing will be built in and emphasized. You can easily connect to your home computer and make the tablet be its second, remote screen. This gives you the power of your big home machine, anywhere you are. With a good connection, you can watch video that is on your home computer in HD with good sound.
There will be a new iChat app for the tablet.
I/O and Communications
For I/O, there will be high speed, low power Bluetooth and WiFi-n. There will be analog audio in/out. I don’t have a prediction for video I/O but I hope for HDMI out.
The tablet will have antennas built in, but no cellular communications built in. Instead, there will be a new kind of slot. This slot can hold a card built for a particular cellular carrier, that connects to the tablet and the built in antennas, letting the card completely internal to the device.
Distribution, Price, Availability
The tablet will be sold everywhere, with an empty slot. But it can also be sold bundled with a card and a cellular contract, subsidized. This decoupling of the cellular hardware with the main tablet makes it possible to have one carrier-agnostic tablet model, and a person can buy a tablet without cellular, or with it, under any carrier that provides a compatible card.
I don’t dare predict price. OK, $799. Yikes! I want to be wrong on that one, and in the good direction. Shipping March 26.
Those are my predictions for the Apple tablet! A few years back, I did pretty well predicting what the iPhone would be, I think I’m even more on track this time around! Think I’m dreaming? What are YOUR predictions?