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.


– 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!


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

– 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

Piecing Together The Apple Tablet

Rumors of an Apple Tablet have been spiking lately, kind of like iPhone rumors did the year before the iPhone was released. Even so, the rumors discuss few details about the device. I couldn’t find any blog posts or articles that attempt to figure out what the tablet might really be like overall, so I decided to make the attempt myself.

In this attempt to figure out what the Apple Tablet might be, I observed the devices, services and software Apple has released in the past two or three years, and I listened to what Apple head honchos said. Also, I tried to think like Steve Jobs and the designers at Apple, not like a typical Windows or Linux geek. That means keeping things simple, elegant, in context and eliminating anything that’s not absolutely necessary in the first edition of a ground-breaking device.

Because this device, if it is what I think it is, would really be game-changing (pun intended).

Here’s my prediction, including all the most fundamental details about the device that I could think of.

Tim Cook, Apple COO, said in the latest Apple conference calls for stockholders, that Apple will not be making inexpensive netbooks with cramped keyboards, and that Apple will be doing their own thing. That, my friends, is because they are working on the Apple Tablet. Netbooks are great for surfing the web wirelessly and checking email. The Apple Tablet will be that, and so much more.

Steve Jobs said the first 30 years of personal computing was dominated by the mouse, the next 30 years is all about touch. Multi-touch. The Apple Tablet will be a 100% multi-touch device, just like the iPhone. It will use glass and aluminum, just like all the latest Apple devices. There will be no cramped keyboard, because the device’s on-screen keyboard will be as big as the Apple Wireless Keyboard’s, which has full sized keys. Assuming about a 0.25” margin from screen to edge, that means the tablet’s width has to be about 11 inches, and implies a height of about 8.25” to leave enough space for the rest of the application and have a paper-like form factor, which we’re used to.

How thin can this thing be? I won’t answer that prematurely. Sure, Apple has developed multiple recent technologies that will enable a really thin tablet. Aluminum Unibody construction allowing great rigidity in a thinner product, custom non-removable batteries that are spread throughout the device, and most importantly, the iPod touch and the iPhone. The Macbook Air is also important to note. But how thin the Apple Tablet will be really depends a lot on how powerful it needs to be.

So how powerful does it need to be? Before anything else can be said, an all-important issue has to be dealt with here and now. What operating system and what kind of applications will this thing run?

The operating system it will run is going to be far closer to iPhone OS than it is to OS X Leopard. I suppose it will be a new and distinct branch forked from iPhone OS.

Part of the reason Apple will use iPhone OS on the tablet instead of OS X has to do with the success of the iPhone App Store. It is too late to accomplish such a feat on Macs and PCs, users have come to expect being able to download and install whatever they want on their full-purpose computers. But the Apple Tablet won’t be a full-purpose computer like your powerful laptop or desktop computer. It can’t be, because not all applications are suitable for multi-touch, and doesn’t have to be, because there’s really no reason to reinvent most software for running on a tablet. So long story short, the only way to get software loaded onto the device (unless jailbroken) will be through the App Store. (Some geeks won’t like me for even thinking that, but hey, just don’t buy the tablet if you don’t like the restriction. Microsoft will eventually do it the “open” way so just be patient.)

The other part of the reason for using iPhone OS is that it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of full OS X. Sure, you’ll be able to use the Apple Tablet to surf the web, do email, take notes, calendar, watch YouTube, buy and play music and movies, play some amazing multi-touch games alone or with a friend, or run a multitude of other application types that can (and have to be) be redesigned work on a multi-touch tablet. But don’t think that you’ll be able to use the device to develop software with, like using Xcode, or doing CAD, or running any other kind of software that doesn’t work in a multi-touch-only environment. This means that this computer doesn’t need to have nearly as powerful of a processor as your typical laptop, and doesn’t need the full OS of one, either.

Think about the iPhone. It has a rather wimpy processor by laptop and even netbook standards. Yet it can speedily run its applications on a 320×480 screen. An Apple Tablet wouldn’t necessarily need a much better CPU, just a better graphics processor to handle its higher resolution. Look at what Apple did with the Macbook Air, that device is a whole lot more powerful than an iPhone, yet the width goes from 0.16 to 0.75 inch, and that includes the keyboard. Now what if Apple only needed to pack half that power in there, and no keyboard? That would be more than enough power to run iPhone-style apps at 1600×1200 resolution and many times faster.

The Apple Tablet wouldn’t need the typical array of ports that full-purpose laptops and computers do. In fact, it could probably survive quite nicely with only a headphone jack and an iPod connector. That’s right, nothing else. Maybe an SD card reader, but no USB ports, ethernet, or built-in CD drive.

No moving parts. No stylus. Glass screen on one side, bottom on the other side. No removable battery.

Oh, this thing will definitely fit in a manila envelope. It’s going to be iPhone-thin or possibly even iPod touch-thin.

What do I mean, iPod connector? You really have to think about it as a complement to your full-purpose computers. As a complement, it doesn’t need to do everything itself. Sure, it could run the full iTunes app with all the music library-management features, but it won’t. The app you’ll be running on it to get your music playing will be called ‘iPod’ rather than ‘iTunes’. That’s right. Just like the Apple TV, you’ll be able to buy music on the Apple Tablet but you’ll be syncing that music with your main computer, just like you do with the iPhone and iPod.

But wait. Even though this device won’t be a replacement for some people’s full-purpose computer, it might in fact do enough to satisfy a large class of people. I mean, not everybody needs to develop software or run heavy-duty applications. The Apple Tablet will be the first non-mobile device for the masses that will be as easy to use as an iPhone.

Unlike other device manufacturers, Apple won’t release a tablet device that doesn’t come complete with a full complement of extremely usable, completely multi-touch optimized applications. Nobody else can really do this anyway, because they don’t have their own operating systems, and Windows 7 isn’t really a multi-touch operating system. Windows 7 is touch-enabled, but not touch-optimized. It isn’t really designed to fully run as a touch-only system (like Microsoft’s Surface is) and it doesn’t provide the fluid experience expected. Very few smooth scrolling physics-like effects in there. And don’t talk to me about Surface, because that’s not a mass-market device.

Let’s talk about multi-tasking. The Apple Tablet will have multi-tasking (as will the iPhone as soon as practical) but it won’t use a Windowing system. It will use the iPhone’s model of one app on screen at any given time. The OS X menu bar, as seen in depictions of the tablet on rumor sites, just won’t be there, that’s not even touch-enabled, let alone optimized for touch.

It will definitely have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, since those connectivity options are absolute musts, but it might also have 3G capabilities, although I’m not so sure about that one because the iPhone already in your pocket has 3G and you can simply use your iPhone’s Bluetooth tethering to gain anywhere-internet access from your Apple Tablet.

And let’s not beat around the bush: You won’t be lifting this tablet to your face to make or answer a phone call. You’ll still be using your iPhone for that. That iPhone won’t be rendered obsolete. Which lends credibility to 3G by tethering as opposed to built-in 3G. It also makes me wonder what you’ll do when you need to snap a photo in order to get it into the tablet. What if the tablet only has a built-in camera on the same side as the screen, unlike the iPhone, but like Apple laptops do? That would be useful for the tablet’s iChat application but not great for taking photos. Then again, there’s always the iPhone in your pocket with that built-in camera and way easier experience than lifting your tablet up to snap a photo.

On this following particular point I’m venturing a little, but some of the many advances in multi-touch that didn’t make it on the iPhone might make it onto the tablet, such as the ability to detect your fingers from a small distance away from the screen, or other sophisticated sensor solutions which will help gain more accuracy from your fingers and give them some of the precision of a physical stylus. Don’t be surprised if Apple includes some of these types of innovations, they did similar things for the iPhone (proximity detector for your face for example).

Of course, unlike the iPhone, the browser on the Apple Tablet will have to support Flash in order to offer the most complete browsing experience possible on it.

I suppose smaller Apple Tablets will also be available later, with “cramped keyboards”.

I can envision a whole new class of two-player (or more) multi-touch games, played with the tablet placed between both players… inspiring indeed. There you have it, the Apple Tablet. Or at least, the Apple Tablet as it would be if I were CEO of Apple, which by the way, I’m not.

If you liked my article, please re-tweet it.