The Apple “Tablet” Lure

Why is Apple working on a Tablet or other device with a new form factor and 10″ screen, and why do we need one? Part of the answer has do to with the App Store. The rest is simply Apple doing what it does best: providing products with compelling user experiences.

Let me spell it all out. By the way, this entire blog post was written (and photo edited) on my iPhone, no desktop, laptop or netbook was involved or harmed.

So…

- Since the original Mac, and even long before, owners of personal computers could purchase or download software from whomever or wherever they wanted. Money would transfer from buyer to seller without involving the manufacturer of the computer or operating system. The cut for Apple or Microsoft was 0% on the world’s software transactions.

- June 2007, iPhone was released. The only way to get apps on it for most users (those that don’t jailbreak their device) was, and remains, to purchase them from the App Store. Even free apps must go through that channel.

- So far, Apple has sold upwards of 30 million iPhones, not to mention similar orders of iPod touches that also must use the App Store. Apple gets a 30% cut on ALL software transactions for iPhone / iPod software. That is already bringing in upwards of 100 million dollars a year for Apple at current rates.

- Thats a decent amount of money but…

- Wouldn’t it be amazing if Apple or another company could somehow pull off the same App Store stunt with Macs and/or PCs? Yes, but it would never be accepted by the existing user base. Both developers and users would cry blue murder at having that imposed on them all of a sudden. It would never pass in the Mac or PC worlds.

- How then did it pass for the iPhone? Simple: As a brand new platform, the choice was that you either accept the App Store, or take a hike, or jailbreak if you have the guts. Why would people accept the closed App Store system, both developers and users? Because the iPhone is a sufficiently advanced and attractive (and now popular) device that we just love it and to hell with the 30% and the App Store system, we gotta have it or develop for it.

- There are therefore hundreds of millions of PC and Mac users out there which do not transact through the App Store, leaving potentially billions of dollars on the table for Apple and Microsoft.

- So how can Apple, or anyone else, tap in and start the ball rolling to get their hands on 30% of some of the rest of the world’s software transactions?

- Simple: Introduce a new computer system that is sufficiently advanced and attractive that we just gotta have it. Force the App Store on it as the exclusive way to load apps, and slowly have it take more and more market share from desktop Macs and PCs.

- How can a new system be so much more attractive to the masses than a nice Macbook or cheap $300 netbook that does most everything you could want?

- Therein lies one answer: Today’s computers can do a lot. They have lots of ports (USB for any device, video, keyboards, mice, network ports, SD reader port, E-sata, power, and sometimes more). They have powerful processors, can run powerful software, they can be used for complex tasks like CAD, creating Hollywood films, developing software, real-time encoding, you name it. In short, they have great power, impressive flexibility, and are pretty complex to use, often making even power users sweat to get them working smoothly.

- What if a computer system was invented that did not need to do 100% of the things typical compters with powerful processors (even Netbooks) could do? What if it only did 80%, a fun and useful and entertaining 80%, such as casual games, productivity, social networking, etc. but nothing fancy like software development, full-fledged Photoshop, CAD, heavy word processing, you know — work stuff.

- What if, though not a do-it-all, it was really really easy to use, as easy as an iPhone. I know lots of people who have no trouble with iPhones but a Mac or PC would frustrate the hell out of them. I’m a computer veteran and often run into issues I can’t easily solve, that’s just wrong.

- What if, like the iPhone, users would never have to deal with “Files”, filesystems, Finder or Windows Explorer, backups, task manager, device manager, menu bars, windows, function keys, viruses and virus detectors, adware, etc, as long as they didn’t jailbreak (keyword: break) their device?

- What if the new system had only an audio out port and a power adaptor hole and that’s all? What if it used Bluetooth, 3G, WiFi N, abd maybe an iPod port, as it’s sole method of communicating to other devices? Hint: Not having a full size USB port means no expectation that you can plug random stuff in and it has to work.

- What if a new, modern paradigm, such as multi-touch, whose time in the spotlight has come, was used? What if the operating system and user interface were really designed for multi-touch, as well as ALL the apps for it? (This has never been done before, Windows 7 barely qualifies as touch-aware, and Surface is too specialized.)

- What if the computer required to run this new OS and UI and it’s apps only needed to be as powerul as an iPhone, but with a slightly better GPU to handle more pixels?

- Think about the volume (cubic inches, not decibels) of an iPhone. In it, there’s everything: CPU, GPU, battery, WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth, GPS, camera, etc. Apply that volume to a Tablet or other portable form factor, say with a 10″ screen. That would make it PRETTY DARN THIN and light for a Tablet even with 3 times the battery.

- Important remark: That would be far thinner and lighter than anything else ever seen for the form factor.

- Add to that a touch-optimized user interface and core apps FULLY adapted for such a thin Tablet or other portable form factor, and presto, you have something that’s sufficiently advanced and attractive that we just gotta have it.

- And that’s where it starts… The era of this new form factor and overtaking of the hard-to-use desktop or laptop computer. And a 30% cut for Apple out of every app sold, instead of 0%.

- Many geeks the world over will say this new device is useless, weak, stupid, not good enough. They aren’t the target market. To them, everything’s doable. This Tablet or “thingy” is for the rest of us.

- Odi

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Comments

  1. Great post. I like that direction. I’d often wish MS would start things from scratch, with the non-power user in mind. It never happened, and I’m afraid it won’t with WM7.

    A little clarification about the AppStore and the 30% cut: Only developers (think they) are loosing in this. For normal users, an AppStore is a benediction, a centralized and unique place where they KNOW they can find software. If “they’re an app for this”, that’s the only place they have to look for.

    So, when you say “it wouldn’t be accepted by the existing user base”, I think you’re making the same mistake of putting power users and normal users in the same bag. Power-users wouldn’t accept, because they think they’re better served in an open system. Normal users, the vast majority, would accept it.

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