The difference between 7″ and 7.85″ is everything

Here’s why I think there will be a tablet from Apple that’s optimized for reading and has a 7″ retina display that runs iPhone apps unmodified, not a tablet with a 7.85″ display that runs iPad apps unmodified.

Perhaps you’ve read these Steve Jobs quotes before, they go something like this:

The 7-inch form factor is not a good size for tablet applications” and “7-inch tablets should come with sandpaper, so that users can file down their fingers so they can use them.

Note the words in bold.

Every rumor and theory about a smaller iPad I have seen seems to claim it will be 7.85″ with a 1024×768 screen. If that were the case, Steve Jobs would be right on the money with the above quotes. A 7.85″ 1024×768 display would be appropriate if the smaller tablet were designed to run iPad applications, because these applications could run unscaled on the device, at a 1:1 pixel ratio. However, the PPI of that 7.85″ screen would be 163. But the size of the user interface elements on iPad applications are tailored for a 132 PPI screen. If squeezed into 163 PPI, every button and control would become smaller, harder to accurately touch. Hence the need for sandpaper.

The same argument applies if the 7.85″ tablet had a retina display with the same resolution as the new iPad’s 2048×1536. It would have 326 PPI, but the UI elements of retina iPad applications are designed for 264 PPI. Sandpaper required.

But consider if the new tablet had a 7″ screen. What’s so special about 7″? A couple of very interesting things.

A 7″ diagonal screen (7.08″ to be exact) just happens to be the exact size of two by two iPod touch retina displays. That’s a 4″ x 6″ display surface. An iPod touch screen has 326 PPI. The 7″ screen would also have 326 PPI just like iPhones and iPods. This would yield a resolution of 1920 x 1280. This resolution would be able to run current retina iPhone applications pixel perfect using the traditional 4:1 pixel scaling, like retina displays do with non-retina apps.

What’s so special about that? By running iPhone applications on a larger screen, as opposed to running iPad applications on a smaller screen, you don’t need the sandpaper anymore. Heck, if you have fat fingers, you’ll rejoice. Larger touch targets are just easier to hit, but still look amazing, especially text, which will be drawn using the full 1920 x 1280 resolution. Anyone that finds the iPod touch or iPhone screen slightly cramped would love it, and could continue to enjoy amazing apps like iMovie, iPhoto, and other apps designed for iPhone.

So a 7″ tablet wouldn’t be an “iPad mini”, it would actually be more like an “iPod maxi”. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. A 7″ or 7.85″ tablet still has to have a clear purpose. To be able to do something far better than the smaller devices (iPod touch and iPhone) and far better than larger devices (the iPads).

The answer is: reading, and long “consumption” sessions. Reading is something that is not comfortably done on an iPad, compared to a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle. That’s because it is relatively very heavy (over 600 grams), and too large. The new iPad is even heavier. You can’t hold these up comfortably. They are also rather expensive, starting at $400, compared to a dedicated e-reader. That’s why my friends with iPads that like reading also bought and use a Kindle. Reading is also cumbersome on an iPod and iPhone, because they are just too cramped and tiny. For comfortable reading, you need a device that’s not more than 400 grams (determined by reading reviews of various e-readers), with a long lasting battery, a screen more tailored to reading than other iOS devices, and it has to be more affordable than an iPad.

The Apple “e-reader” I’m about to describe wouldn’t just be a great, inexpensive and sufficiently light reading device with a color retina display, it would also be a full iOS device capable of beautifully running iPhone apps.

An iPod touch costs $200. It is 0.28″ thick (7.2mm). It weighs 105 grams. If you think of a 7″ iOS “reader” device that is essentially 4 iPod touches put together in 2 x 2 formation, this device would end up being about 0.29″ thick (7.5mm), weigh 350g, and beautifully run retina iPhone apps unmodified using a perfect 4:1 pixel ratio. It would be slightly thicker for structural strength and extra battery space. It wouldn’t cost $800 because you don’t need 4 times the electronics.  It would have more battery life than an iPod touch thanks to far more battery space. It would also weigh less than 4 iPod touches because not everything is multiplied by 4. Cost? I’d say $250 because the larger 1920×1280 display would cost slightly more, even if it would be iPod touch quality (inferior to iPhone or iPad display quality) and Apple factories are already perfectly tooled to make 326 PPI iPod-quality displays.

Apple would also optimize the display for “reading”, meaning, applying anti-reflection, more precise dimming and other technologies to it that it normally wouldn’t need or desire for iPods, iPhones or iPads. Yet iPhone apps would still run nicely on it, making it far more multi-purpose than a mere Kindle with e-ink, even if still not as awesome for reading in bright daylight.

E-readers are a nice market segment exploited by Amazon, wide open for Apple to expand into and dominate with iOS.

Why the iPhone 5 will drop the 30-pin iPod connector

Image

The iPod connector is, quite simply, no longer needed. Not only do I think it will disappear with iPhone 5, but if it is replaced with another connector, it will be used solely for power. Not data.

Consider the following new technologies and capabilities that have recently been introduced by Apple. Each of these replaces capabilities previously possible only through the iPod connector:

  • PC-free setup: no longer requires you to plug into a PC/Mac for initial setup.
  • WiFi sync to iTunes: iOS backup, music/videos/app sync when plugged into power.
  • iCloud: Over-the-air iOS updates, backup, restore, app locker.
  • iTunes in the cloud and iTunes Match: – you don’t even need iTunes.exe for music.
  • Stream your home library: The iOS Music app now lets you do this over Wi-Fi (It’s true!)
And a couple more new things that are quite relevant:
  • AirPlay: Lets your devices output audio and video to 3rd party devices. Clock radios, home theater receivers, etc. It is the new way of sending audio to devices, and 3rd parties are already supporting it. The dock connector is used less and less.
  • Bluetooth 4.0: hours of low power communications on iOS devices.

So what’s left to keep the iPod connector? Transfer speed? Nope, if it work’s for WiFi sync and the other above listed features, it’s not key. iOS developers tell me that debugging is done through the connector cable. That’s something. Enough to keep the connector? I wouldn’t bet on it. iPad might keep it for projector use, but, hey, Airplay could help there.

But why would Apple want to get rid of the iPod connector? Why stir up trouble?

  • Design. Without the iPod connector, Apple has more design freedom for the iPhone. Edges can be tapered or thinner, the internals can be rearranged, a larger speaker can be added to the bottom edge, etc.
  • Harder to jailbreak. The connector is used by hackers as a point of entry for jail breaking. With the connector gone, it might be harder to hack the iPhone.
  • It’s ugly. It’s a connector. Things Apple usually likes to get rid of when possible.
  • No cable to include. Less materials to waste. Less cost.
  • Better for the user. The message that you’d want (or need in any way) to use a cable, gone.
  • 3rd party market entropy. New opportunity for 3rd party device makers to exploit.
  • The sooner, the better. iPhone 5 will probably outsell all previous iPhones combined, so it’s an excellent time to “move on”.
So here you have it. With no connector, power still needs to get into the iPhone, so I think we’ll see the MagSafe for iPhone or, less likely I would say, inductive charging.
I think I also need a blog post on why iTunes.exe is on the way out, too.

Bonus thought: I suppose it is too early to suggest that after the iPod connector, the next thing to go will be the stereo headphone jack. Bluetooth headphones must be pretty cheap to make now, and with Bluetooth 4.0, their battery would last pretty long. I would just not enjoy having to charge yet another device… So no, I guess.

How Microsoft can break into the smartphone market

Here’s how Microsoft can break into the smartphone market.

1) Announce Windows 8 for computers + phones simultaneously during a special event dedicated solely to this launch.

2) During the same keynote, announce and demonstrate the first Windows 8 phone, the reference design, made by Nokia. A totally new design, Nokia’s best ever. Hold off on announcing phones from other partners for another event.

3) Announce the release date for 2 months later. During the keynote, provide the link for developers to the new SDK update they will need to make the appropriate universal apps that run on both W8 phones and touchscreen tablets/desktops.

4) Spend $2B on advertising over the course of the next year. Essentially, double their previous WP7 and Windows 7 budgets combined. Windows 8 is a consumer OS. All this Metro stuff is not targeted to businesses. The message has to come in loud…

5) …and clear. The ad campaign, and launch campaign’s sole message: Windows 8 is a revolutionary new touchscreen Windows that is integrated with social networks and runs on all your devices: desktops, laptops, tablets and your phone. Download an app for your phone, and it also runs on your PC and all your other devices. Nobody else does this.

6) Resist the urge to talk about anything else, like Xbox Live, Office, etc. Keep that first volley of messages simple, because the world has adapted to Android and iOS and they are already used to lots of bells and whistles. Your most significant advantage is your revolutionary live tiles UI and social net integration that works on ALL a person’s computers. Focus on it.

What do you think?

Apple Television Q&A

Rumors and speculation about an Apple television set are spiking. Why? Because Steve Jobs himself talked about it to his biographer, knowing full well the book would be released in late 2011. This is no coincidence, it’s planned. It’s planned because it’s a product that’s within a year of being launched.

So, I’ll play along and attempt to provide what I think are the answers to all the key questions, and a few not so obvious ones. I want as complete a picture as I can predict, not just a couple of bits and pieces. It was fun doing this last time when iPad rumors were abundant, but long before the product was revealed.

Remember when Steve revealed the iPad? He introduced it by explaining what a tablet would have to be good at. What does an Apple television set have to be good at? Entertainment and information. In the living room and bedroom. What is the living room? It’s a place where one or more people sit on the couch, and expect to be entertained. It’s a place currently burdened with a pile of remotes, set top boxes, cables, receiver, consoles and their controllers. Apple’s job is to free us from this mess and give us a wonderful user experience.

Q. Will it just be a gorgeous looking AirPlay display, designed to easily display content from your iOS device, but unable to function on its own?

No. Besides being a rather boring product to announce, it wouldn’t make for a great user experience if it relied solely on your iOS device in order to work. Imagine walking into your living room to watch something, but realizing you left the iPhone or iPad somewhere else, or someone else is using it? You couldn’t start your entertainment session. This scenario would be riddled with problems. What if a family member uses the iOS device to receive a call or run an app, but you need to pause a video’s playback and you can’t? Or if the battery was low, which happens with iOS devices, and everything just stops working?  It’s “fumbling for your remote control” reinvented.

Here’s a tasty morsel. When you start a video (such as a YouTube video) using AirPlay, today’s Apple TV will “go native”. It will stop streaming from your iOS device and do the streaming from the internet itself. This lets your iOS device take a breather, reduce network activity,  and eliminate a point of failure. The Apple television will do no less. That implies the Apple television will indeed have the innards to be able function on its own. That tiny $75 iOS-running motherboard in it, though, could run Siri, show notifications, reminders, FaceTime, and so much more, without requiring a separate iOS device. What a lost opportunity it would be if left dormant.

Q. So this thing will leverage iOS, and have an Apple processor in it?

Yes. Even better, it is the first iOS device that’s permanently plugged into the power line, so it will have more ram, and the CPU and GPU will run at higher clock rates. This will let it run the software it needs to at excellent speeds for many years. No planned obsolescence, just a little inevitable obsolescence. It will have a handful of GB of flash-based storage for buffering movies and system use.

Q. Will it run apps? Apps from an App Store?

Built-in apps, yes. Apps you can choose and install from an App Store, no. There will be no grid of icons to touch, or to select from with a remote control. There will be apps it can run, but they are invoked by the system. Like when you tell the system to play a YouTube video, the player app is invoked. Or when you want to know what the weather is like today, an app will display the information, but it is an app installed by Apple and fully integrated with the system. More apps can be added by Apple as needed through a system update.

Q. Will it run games on board?

No. Every year, Apple processors and GPUs for iOS devices double in speed, or sometimes even gets bumped up 7x in speed like with the iPhone 4S. If the Apple television set ran games on board, it would quickly become obsolete.  What’s is the ultimate game console and controller all rolled into one? A handheld iOS device. Fire up a game on your iOS device, touch the AirPlay symbol, the Apple television responds, and you have yourself a dual-screen gaming experience like no console can offer. Have you seen Real Racing HD? It displays a steering wheel on your iOS device, and the 3D racetrack view on your display. While an iOS device may not be as good at some games like traditional controllers included with the Xbox 360 or PS3 or Wii, it does have lots of modern touches, like gyros and accelerometers and a touch screen. As a controller and as a game console, it’s more than enough to satisfy user’s gaming needs. The proof is the massive amount of developers building quality games for iOS. Deeper, console-like games will come, too, with the market to sell them to.

One more thing. I remember at a Microsoft keynote for Windows Phone 7, they demoed their dream of gamers being able to play a game on a console, and then pick up where they left off on their Windows Phone 7. To make this happen, developers would have to write both an Xbox 360 version of their game as well as a Windows Phone 7 version. But when the device, the controller is the console, this just happens naturally. None of this will be going on here.

Next year’s $200, A5-equipped, AirPlay mirroring-capable  iPod touch: it’s the game console for your living room, bathroom, and pants pocket.

Q. Will the Apple television have a built-in cable decoder and PVR?

No. This is the internet-era, baby. You won’t be plugging in cable service into this thing. The internet and iTunes is it’s source.  There are two kinds of Apple television set theories. The kind where it embraces and extends the past, and the kind where it sheds legacy and breaks new ground. If there’s one company that has the guts, the backing, the momentum to do this, it’s Apple. It’s how, as John Gruber would say, Apple rolls.

Q. Wait a minute, you mean I won’t be able to plug in my Blu-Ray player, set-top box, Xbox 360, Wii or PS3 into it?

No. If you’re dead-set on doing that, then this device won’t appeal to you.

Q. What will the primary user interface be? What’s this business of “the simplest user interface you can imagine”?

Your voice. No remotes to find, and unless you want to play video games, no iOS devices to charge and keep handy. Quietly speak what you want, and it will be done, conversationally. Even if the television is playing a loud movie, thanks to modern echo cancellation techniques, you can still speak softly. Converse like this: “Play iPhone 4 vs. HTC Evo from YouTube.” — (answer) “Playing.” — “Skip forward 3 minutes” — “Pause” — “Play Total Recall” — “What football games are playing right now?” — “FaceTime with Mike” — (answer) “Mike Sax or Mike Strobel?” — “Sax” — (answer) “Calling Mike Sax on FaceTime.” — “What is the weather like today?” — “Set an alarm in 30 minutes”.

All the user has to know is which keyword to say to get the system to start listening for commands, because unlike on iPhone 4S, there’s no button to press and hold. “Siri” sounds like a pretty distinct keyword to me. But she’s a “humble personal assistant” – maybe it will be her fun-loving sister.

Q. Will voice be the only way to control the TV? What about accessibility?

A tiny remote, the aluminum Apple TV remote, will be included. It will be the only remote you’ll ever need again, and most people probably won’t ever use it except during setup. The interface for the remote control will be similar to the kind of left-right-up-down one used for today’s Apple TV. No grid of icons, as I said previously. You won’t be using this remote to control games.

Q. Will there be anything special about it’s industrial design?

It will be incredibly thin, the world’s thinnest TV, and won’t come with an ugly box for plugging in all your existing stuff. It will have only one cable, the power cable. It will still be very rigid, because it will use real glass, with a good amount of thickness in it to keep the entire thing solid. It won’t have any buttons, it will be always on, using as little power as your iPhone when not in use. When you walk into an Apple store and see one, you will of course, immediately fall in love. They’ll show you what your current system looks like (the mess) and what Apple offers.  The rest will be history.

Q. I like to watch TV, will buying this thing mean I won’t need to pay for cable TV anymore?

You won’t want to. You’ll just be pay for your internet connection. Apart from YouTube, Netflix, MLB, Vimeo, and other internet sources, you’ll have direct, cheaper access to the TV shows you want, thanks to Apple’s expanded iTunes TV and video store. At first, some of the things you want to watch won’t be there. But a nice salvo of new stuff will be announced with the launch of the Apple television set, lessening the pain of the transition, and over time, like with music in the iTunes store, everything will be available. Once the industry sees it can publish their content (even live content, for newscasts) quickly and easily through iTunes, and that they can make as much, if not more money off of it, than through traditional TV, everything will fall into place. And when it does, even more customers will use it, because it will be cheaper than classic TV, on a monthly basis.

Q. What will this Apple television set be called.

I racked my brains for months trying to name the Apple tablet, and got it wrong. I’m not going through that part again. This time, I’m going with the simplest name (and siding with Daring Fireball): iTV.

Q. So why can only Apple build this and nobody else?

Nobody else has Siri, nobody else has the guts to not include any inputs, nobody else has iOS, nobody else has invested in the machinery for the glass and materials required for this level of beauty, and nobody else has their own 300+ stores with heavy traffic to launch this from and introduce it properly. Have I given enough reasons?

Q. Camera?

Yes, FaceTime HD camera. An LED light will clearly indicate when it is in use.

Q. SD card reader?

No. The new point-and-shoots are iOS devices, and Photo Stream is built in. The loop is closing.

Q. ipod connector? 3D? 3G?  Ethernet port?

No. No. No. Ethernet port, maybe.

Q. Will I be able to browse the web?

Still thinking about this one. I don’t see how you’d do it. I think Siri’s “I found this for you:” will return only results from integrated sources. Not web pages you can surf.

Q. Flash support?

Hahaha, no.

That’s it for now. I’ll post an update if I think I got some things wrong, or forgot to answer questions (or couldn’t yet, such as “How will multi-user work?”, “Will there be face or voice recognition?”, “How do parental controls work?”). I’ll be reading blogs, arguing on twitter, and articles and adjusting my predictions if necessary, up until the day before the big reveal.

Post-iPad Announcement Prediction Score

Quickly reviewing what I got right and wrong 5 months before iPad was announced, in my blog post Piecing Together The Apple Tablet.

Right: 100% multi-touch.

Right: Glass and aluminum.

Wrong: The virtual keyboard will be full size. No, it will be kinda-sorta near full size.

Wrong: 8.25″ x 11″ dimensions. It will be 7.5″ by 9.5″.

Wrong: The bezel will be 0.25″. It is about 1″. In order to hold it properly.

Wrong: Resolution 1600 x 1200. It will be 1024 x 768.

Right: Thickness of an iPhone.

Right: Non-removable battery.

Right: It will run an OS far closer to iPhone OS than to OS X Leopard.

Right: It will use the App Store exclusively.

Right: It won’t be a “full purpose computer.”

Right: The Apple Tablet will be for stuff like surfing the web, email, taking notes, calendar, YouTube, music, games.

Right: The Apple Tablet won’t be very powerful, like a typical laptop.

Right: The Apple Tablet will only have a headphone jack and iPod connector. Nothing else.

Right: No moving parts. No Stylus.

Right: The app for music will be called “iPod”, it won’t be “iTunes” like on Mac OS X.

Right: It still needs a full purpose computer around to sync to.

Right:  The Apple Tablet will be the first non-mobile device for the masses that will be as easy to use as an iPhone.

Right: Apple will equip it with a full complement of completely multi-touch optimized applications.

Wrong: Multi-tasking.

Right: One app on screen at any given time. No Windows. No OS X menu bar.

Right: Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Right: It might have 3G capabilities.

Right: Not a phone.

Right: There’s always a camera in your pocket (the iPhone) for a better experience than lifting the tablet up to take a photo.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong: It has to support Flash.

Apple Tablet FAQ

Here’s what I think the answers are to all the key questions, and a few not so obvious ones.

Q. Does the Tablet run Mac software?

A. No. It only runs software you get from the App Store. Apps on the App Store that identify themselves as enabled and adapted for running on the Tablet. When you are on the App Store using the Tablet, you will see only apps that support (or also support, if they are already iPhone apps) the Tablet form factor and resolution. You will see the appropriate screenshots for the Tablet.

Q. Will the Tablet also run iPhone Apps that aren’t adapted for the Tablet, maybe by running them in a window or stretching them?

A. No. Like Apple, authors will have to make an effort and do the job right, adapting their app appropriately to the resolution and form factor and additional UI controls available on the Tablet’s OS, which is basically a branch of iPhone OS.

Q. Will the Tablet use windows and menus and Finder and other paradigms from OS X Leopard?

A. No, the Tablet will be basically running iPhone OS but with extra UI elements and input gestures designed specifically for the larger form factor. You will never deal with “files”, the Finder (for PC people, that’s Windows/File Explorer), device manager, Virus detectors, and other things that you don’t have to deal with on an iPhone.

Q. Will I be able to plug in a mouse? External keyboard?

A. Mouse is out of the question, the Tablet’s multi-touch UI is not designed for it, does not factor in a mouse. A bluetooth keyboard is not totally out of the question though.

Q. If the Apple Tablet is just an overgrown iPhone, do you need a PC or a Mac to sync with, back it up, set it up?

A. No. There’s an iPod connector, but it is not used for that.

Q. Then how do I get my music on it?

A. For music purchased from iTunes, it is dead simple. Provide the Tablet with your iTunes Store account name and password, and you now have instant access to all your purchased music without re-downloading it all. Apple already knows and remembers all the song files, TV shows and Movies (and now E-books) you purchased.

Q. You mean the music is always streamed to me when I want to hear it?

A. No, you create playlists, smart playlists and genius mixes through a new interface (not the iTunes app for PC and Mac as before) and then the music is synced to your Tablet from the Internet instead of from your PC or Mac’s iTunes library. Synced music (and Movies etc.) on your Tablet work when disconnected from the Internet, as expected.

Q. What about all the other MP3 and music files I have on my hard drives at home?

A. A new version of iTunes will let you upload your entire home music library to the Internet (Apple’s servers). There it will be safe, backed up, available to you always, from anywhere. Sync back to your iTunes apps (like Home sharing but from your music library on the Internet).

Q. What about my photos? How can I get them onto the Tablet?

A. Any photos placed (or synced from iPhoto or your PC) on MobileMe are safe, backed up, and swiftly accessible to you on your Tablet. The newly released Gallery app on the iPhone demonstrates how fast the experience can be. Of course, the Tablet can sync any photo album locally for albums you often look at or wish to access while disconnected from the Infernet.

Q. What if I lose the Tablet or it breaks or other issue occurs, where is it backed up if I don’t have a PC or Mac to back it up like with the iPhone?

A. Like Microsoft’s Windows Phone, your Tablef’s entire config will be backed up to the Internet.

Q. How would I update the firmware?

A. Online. The Tablet’s BIOS is Internet and WiFi aware and can perform a complete reset, restore or update after you connect it to WiFi.

Q. What about Apps? Without iTunes to manage them, how do I decide which apps I currently want on my Tablet and which I don’t?

A. The same app on the Tablet that lets you manage your music library lets you manage your apps. Since all apps come from the App Store, they are re-downloaded as needed to sync to your Tablet (or restore a Tablet).

Q. How do I get photos from my digital camera into the Tablet without a computer?

A. iPod connector to micro-USB cable. Plug in your camera, and the Tablet’s software will put your photos on MobileMe quickly and easily, where they will be backed up and safe and accessible and syncable to the Tablet.

Q. What about a built-in SD card reader?

A. Maybe. Might not make it in.

Q. What other ports are there on the Tablet?

A. Headphone jack. Charge through iPod connector. Maybe an SD slot. That’s it. No separate mike jack, micro-USB, dedicated video out port — same as iPhone but with possible addition of the SD card reader port to make importing photos and videos from camcorders easier. iPod connector flexible enough to allow video out, mike, etc. as needed.

Q. What will the Tablet be called?

A. If it is a tablet, and not some other form factor, it will be called iPod slate or iPod tablet or iPod something.

Q. Removable battery? Stylus? 3D user interface? Articulating frame keyboard? Voice text input? Built-in projector?

A. No, no, no, no, no, and no.

Q. Price?

A. 32 GB version, $649 +/- $50 USD.

Q. Release date?

A. March to June, probably April.

Q. Built in 3G?

A. Yes.

Q. Powerful?

A. More power than an iPhone 3GS but nowhere near as powerful as a Macbook or other full fledged computers.

Q. Thin?

A. Ridiculously thin. As thin as an iPod touch or thinner. It has the same order of processor as an iPod, but more battery life from the added volume to work with.

Q. Aluminum and glass construction?

A. Yes

Q. Moving parts? Like unfolding flap or slide-out keyboard?

A. No.

Q. Size?

A. 10-11″ screen. High res.

Q. Built-in camera?

A. Tough, tough question. After all, we’ve got cameras on our iPhones and cell phones, and other cameras. If there is one, it will be for iChat, so, front facing! I’d say yes…

Q. What will you be able to do with it?

A. Same kinds of things iPhone apps let you do, but on a larger screen. Meaning practically everything (eventually) except hardcore stuff like software development etc.

Q. Will this Tablet change the world?

A. Exagerations aside, it will be the first non-pocket computer for the masses that will be as easy to use as an iPhone. That says a lot.

If you liked this FAQ, please Digg it.

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

12 Things I’d like to see in the next iPhone

Saw a blog post from Alan Zeichick (I know him as Editor, SD Times) about this. Here’s my own list:

1 )  A way for apps to get stuff done in the background. Like record my location throughout the day, or record audio, or communicate data, or check in to work when detecting the WiFi, there are a ton of things that could be enabled.

2 )  A front facing camera for video chat, even if only over WiFi.

3 )  Better battery life, but without resorting to a removeable battery. iPhone is indestructible, I like that. At most, a way to tack on an extra battery on the back, not through the iPod connector.

4 )  Screen that takes all of the iPhone’s surface, no forehead or chin at top and bottom. Less bezel on sides. Hard work must be done, but the Home button should not take up that space it takes up. Find a solution (clickable screen similar to the MacBook’s clickable trackpad?)

5 )   Better vibrator, it is slightly too easy to miss now.

6 )  More Flash Ram (as usual)

7 )  Faster processor (yes, while still improving battery life)

8 )  Better camera (faster, better optics, anything you can do including a flash for the camera)

9 )  Sync and back up the phone to the cloud, not iTunes (as part of a larger strategy too long to discuss here, but suffice it to say that Windows Phone does this)

10 )  Option to auto-update apps

11 )  One millimeter thinner every three years, it’s time. Yes, even with the faster processor and longer battery life. Repeat what you did with iPods in the last 9 years.

12 )  Full, fast, accurate voice recognition that works (types in what you say) in any app, easily turned on when desired.

Aww yeah!

Odi

Naming the Apple Tablet, Take 2

I was visiting the Apple home page when it struck me. The “iSlate” (no, it won’t be called that) has to fit in somewhere. There are three buttons at the top of Apple.com:

- Mac
- iPod + iTunes
- iPhone

The Mac product line goes back 25-years, but the Apple Tablet won’t be a “Mac”, as I explained in my previous post. The tablet also won’t be an “iPhone”, you don’t want customers to imagine holding up a page-sized device to their face. I also think that there doesn’t need to be a new product category for the tablet because:

  • The iPod touch is already a tablet, it is the pocket version of what I think the Apple Tablet will be.
  • The iPod line started 8 years ago and is still growing (pun with the tablet being an overgrown iPod intended). No need to create yet another category, this one has plenty of room to continue defining itself distinctively.
  • “iPod” already does music, books, video, podcasts, all the stuff a small tablet would also be fun to use for.
  • iTunes is the store for all this, and is closely associated to “iPod”
  • Labeling it iPod clearly sets expectations, nobody will expect it to do everything a Mac can.
  • Calling it an iPod might weaken the strong image that iPods are pocket music devices, but will give the tablet a clear, well known space to exist in. Besides, the iPod touch being marketed for games has already started a new trend away from music devices.
  • If the device was called something like “iPod page” it would fit nicely into the iPod area of the Apple site, and its specialty, size, will be obvious (heck, it even has something to do with “e-reader” while you’re at it)
  • A name like “Apple <something>” would not be great, that’s reserved for devices which are iTunes-related but certainly not “iPods”, like the AppleTV.

So that’s it, the tablet is going to be an iPod. My guess is it will be named something along the lines of…

- iPod page
- iPod slate

You know, something like: stretch, mega (nickname: “megapod”!), tera, maxi (“the Maxi Pod/Maxi Pad”!), web, surf. Other ideas in previous posts, but I like “page” best.

Naming the Apple Tablet

I have been trying to figure out what Apple will name their tablet computer, but most names just don’t work. It’s much easier to figure out what won’t work than what will… Let me explain:

1) Names containing Mac, like MacBook touch or MacBook Mini or whatever. The Tablet isn’t going to be a Mac. A 100% multi-touch computer just won’t work the same way a Mac does. It won’t have menu bars, a windowing system, etc. Ever used Microsoft Surface? You get my drift now. Calling it a Mac would be a mistake. The operating system will not be Snow Leopard on this thing, so Apple cannot confuse people by associating it with the Mac name. (See my other post here to read about what I think the Apple Tablet will really be like — if I’m wrong, then this article will miss the mark too because the name definitely would have “Mac” in it then)

2) Names with “iPod” in them, like “iPod tablet” or “iPod page”. Even if the tablet is really an overgrown, more powerful iPod touch, Apple can’t really risk messing with the iPod brand by using the name for this new class of iPod-derived devices. We think of iPods as pocket music devices, not tablets, and this will foster confusion in the marketplace.

3) “iPad” can’t be used because it is too close to “iPod” and would definitely create confusion in the marketplace.

4) “iPage” might work, I’m not sure, but “iSlate”, “iSlab” or “iTablet” are weak. I mean, they don’t really seem like they are “it” for a game-changing device like this. More weak names I thought up: “iTap”, “iSlice”, “iPoint”, “iReach”, “iPaw”, “iScreen”, “iSheet”, “iClear”, “iDact”, “iTact”, “iSurf”, “iScribble”, “iPaper”, “iBlock”, “iSwipe” but then if Apple chooses one of these then I might no longer think it’s weak… ok I might still think it’s weak. “iTab” is a bit better, but is it as durable as the name “Mac”, for an important device like this?

5) Names with “iPhone” in them. Since you won’t be bringing this device to your face to make calls, and for the same reasons as not using names with “iPod” in them, Apple can’t use this in the tablet’s name.

6) Names with the Apple logo in them like AppleTV (where Apple is replaced with the logo). That might be possible, but somehow it doesn’t seem to make as much sense as a name that starts with “i” because “i” is for Internet and the Apple Tablet definitely will behighly used for internet surfing.

7) “iTouch” might be too close to “iPod touch”, I mean some people already erroneously call the iPod touch the “iTouch”.

8) Names relating to Netbooks. Well, “iBook” was already used before. Can Apple reuse it? I don’t know. Why not, the name’s been forgotten already, it could be brought back to life. Except if the device doesn’t open up like a book of course. So much for that.

So what can it be called? In the pre-iPhone days, folks had already guessed the name, so could it really be the “iTablet”? But what if it does have 1 moving part, something that would allow the device to tilt at a better viewing angle? Well, iTablet still works… but somehoe I think this blog post missed the real name they’ll choose.

Much harder than I thought! Anyone care to contribute? Tweet to @kosmatos

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