Daniel Eran Dilger
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iPod Game Console, Tablet at WWDC? Highly Unlikely

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Inventory shortages of the iPhone appear to predict the launch of a new 3G model, long expected to be released this June around the first year anniversary of its debut. However, the rumor mill has recently kicked into overdrive to predict the arrival of another new device based on the same platform, either focused on gaming or serving as a tablet device. This is highly unlikely, for the following reasons.

iPhone: Black is the New II.
First, consider the circumstances of the relatively uncontroversial iPhone upgrade, which is apparently going to be called the iPhone Black, according to slips discovered on AT&T’s website.

The current iPhone is now approaching its first year milestone, which has historically served as a good rule of thumb that a new revision from Apple is likely. New MacBooks, iMacs, Pros, and iPods all tend to roll out in somewhat predictable annual waves.

Details emerging from the iPhone’s SDK have indicated support for new hardware features including the Infineon SGOLD3, a new processor with support for HSDPA networks running at 7.2 megabit per second spec, twice the speed of the 3.6 megabit access seen on most 3G networks.

Whatever the exact features of the next revision to the iPhone, recent announcements from carriers around the world suggest that there are lots of deals tied to the release of a new model. That leaves the iPhone Black all but officially confirmed in marketing, software, and partner deals. What about the rumored game console or tablet?

AppleInsider | AT&T now showing “iPhone Black” model in device listing

Marketing 8-Ball Says Unlikely.
Apple avoids selling lots of different product models. That in itself suggests a marketing reason why the company won’t immediately split out the iPhone and iPod touch line into the new product categories of a game device or tablet.

Look at historical precedents: when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, his first action was to pare down the number of Mac SKUs the company sold. More than a dozen different models of different Performas, Power Macs, PowerBooks, Mac OS Workgroup Servers, and AIX Apple Network Servers were killed to make way for a very simple lineup of the G3 Mac, PowerBook, Server, and an All in One that became the iMac.

Apple then killed the Newton, and didn’t begin introducing new differentiated models until sales built up to the point where those products made sense. The PowerBook sprouted a consumer iBook line and then itself branched into 15“ and 17” varieties; the iMac split into a CRT eMac and flat panel iMac line; the G4 Cube was floated unsuccessfully, only to reappear as the Mac mini; and Apple got back into servers with the Xserve. Each new product introduction took a couple years to appear.

The same thing happened with the iPod. After its introduction in late 2001, the iPod saw two major revisions before the introduction of the first new model, the iPod mini in 2004. As with the successful branches in the Mac family, the iPod mini wasn’t offered as a speculative gambit, but was instead intended to take on the growing, lower end flash-based MP3 player market that was ready to harvest.

Steve Jobs and 20 Years of Apple Servers

Steve Jobs and 20 Years of Apple Servers
Newton Rising: Is the Next iPhone Device a G3 MessagePad?

A Case of Too Many Products.
So based on Apple’s past marketing strategies, an entirely new form of the iPhone and iPod touch isn’t likely to occur for another year at least. And there’s good reason for that. Remember when HP launched 39 new products at a star studded event during Fashion Week in New York last fall? Of course you didn’t. However, most of the US probably does remember the launch of Apple’s iPhone, the new iPods, the new iMac, Leopard, the new Apple TV software, the iPhone SDK, and so on. Those all got noticed and covered because they were targeted, specific, and metered out over a period of months so that individuals could keep them straight and they’d have impact.

Too many products splinters consumers’ attention. That’s why Apple killed the successful and popular iPod mini when it introduced the Nano. Most companies would have continued selling both, just as Microsoft kept selling its original boxy Zune after introducing two new models. Of course, in Microsoft’s case, it also had nearly a million in inventory left to sell and no buyers, so its hand was forced.

Every product Apple sells demands marketing support. Apple recently surprised observers by discontinuing its Xserve RAID product and throwing its support behind a third party solution instead. That niche was apparently just not big enough to capture Apple’s ongoing development and marketing resources. Apple’s consumer focus means that products have to sell universally and in volume. That requires general purpose, worldwide products with a broad potential audience.

Why Dan Frommer and Scott Moritz Are Wrong on iPhone Sales

A Category Worth Addressing.
As noted with the iPod mini, Apple branched the iPod line once it was clear that full sized, hard drive-based MP3 players had limited additional potential for growth compared to the high volume flash-based market. Apple entered the flash market with a small hard drive player and quickly dominated sales. It then introduced the flash-based Nano and a simplified Shuffle. Each incrementally targeted a lower bracket of the market where there were ready new sales to grab.

This last year, Apple added a new direction for the iPod: higher end sales with the iPod touch. Having eaten up all of the easy low end sales, Apple began developing a market into a new product category that was already seeing some success, as indicated by the Nokia Internet Tablet line.

The iPhone itself could also be considered a branch of the iPod line into smartphones. Prior to its launch, analysts were worried that Apple’s iPod line would be eaten into by smartphones gaining the ability to play song files. Just as the Mini and Nano targeted the larger low priced market, the iPhone targeted the much larger smartphone market, a category Apple needed to address, and one that was ripe for the picking.

Apple’s iPhone Vs. Other Mobile Hardware Makers: 5 Revenue Engines

Apple’s iPhone Vs. Other Mobile Hardware Makers: 5 Revenue Engines

Too Many Branches, Not Enough Roots.
However, adding further new branches to that model would make less sense for two reasons. First, there is no low hanging fruit in the handheld player or tablet device markets that Apple could snap up. Sony’s PlayStation Portable, introduced back in 2004, indicated that there’s limited demand for an iPod-priced, handheld games machine. Nintendo’s GameBoy and DS are priced even lower, making handheld gaming a difficult category to profitably break into with a dedicated device. As for tablets, Microsoft has similarly demonstrated that there has been no volume demand for that product category outside of a few vertical applications in healthcare, warehouse, shipping, and other relatively small niches.

Second, creating a dedicated iPhone-like device to service those minor markets would splinter both Apple’s focus and that of third party developers just as the Cocoa Touch SDK is preparing to usher in a first wave of applications. Those applications will already have the potential to push the existing iPhone and iPod touch into the gaming and handheld, tablet-associated markets. Why introduce specialty devices that only do one thing rather than stretch the applications of Apple’s existing product lineup?

Would developers need to choose between developing games for the baseline iPhone and iPod touch, and a new gaming-centric model? Would they develop tablet applications that worked on both the existing devices with an installed base approaching ten million (5 million iPhones and as many iPod touches), or wait to see how well a larger format iPod tablet sold first?

Apple currently has two WiFi mobile devices with wide audiences, one has a cellular radio and the other doesn’t. The fact that they can both run nearly all the same software means that Cocoa Touch developers will be able to target a wide installed base immediately, without having to choose between aiming at a lowest common denominator or a specialized version.

When Apple releases its improved iPhone Black model, it will run all the same software, it’ll just have additional cellular networking speed. It’s simply too early to start branching out the Cocoa Touch platform given that it hasn’t had the chance to commercially sprout yet.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP

iPod vs Mac
Another problem with a tablet iPod is that it would rapidly begin encroaching upon Apple’s bread and butter laptop line. Currently, Apple’s $300 to $400 Cocoa Touch devices are well differentiated from its $1000 and up MacBook line. As the iPhone turned into a larger tablet, it would ratchet up into the $700 to $1000 price segment formerly occupied by the Newton and currently occupied by Microsoft’s poorly selling UMPCs.

As a tablet touch bumped up into Apple’s MacBook line, the company would risk cannibalizing its successful laptop sales. It would also face increasing pressure from other general purpose mini laptops such as the low cost Asus EEE PC. That device is currently hard to compare against the media centric iPod touch, but an iPod tablet would begin to look a lot like a mini laptop, sending Apple into competition on price with other devices in a market where there is currently little profit and relatively little demand.

ARM, x86 Chip Makers Fight to Ride Mobile Growth

Bulking Better than Branching.
The good news is that Apple doesn’t need to release a dedicated gaming device nor a customized, enlarged tablet-style model. The existing iPhone and iPod touch already serve as a competent platform for handheld gaming, and both also make exceptional use of their relatively small screens to be very usable in many applications associated with tablet computers. Who would have thought it possible to browse the web on a 3.5 inch screen?

Over the rest of this year, the Cocoa Touch development platform will bust out in full force, fleshing out the most valuable markets and pumping resources toward the buds most likely to result in suitable branches. It seems unlikely that Apple will ever need to release a dedicated handheld gaming device; successive models of the iPod touch and iPhone might gain new features that make gaming better, but an iPhone with additional fire buttons would not seem to make any sense as a standalone product.

An iPod tablet might make some sense in the next year or two if markets develop that embrace the Cocoa Touch development tools. Conversely, it might make more sense for Apple to develop new mobile devices that instead build upon the MacBook Air, getting lighter and thinner while maintaining the processor power, full size keyboard, and display that make sense in a laptop but not in a pocket sized iPod device.

There’s another reason why Apple doesn’t need to release a Cocoa Touch game console: Apple TV. The next article will look at why.

I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • NoNeeeed

    Daniel, another spot on analysis of the situation.

    I don’t get why people think that Apple would release a dedicated gaming console. The Super Monkeyball demo that Nintendo wrote using the iPhone/Touch SDK showed that they are more than capable as handheld gaming platforms.

    Why complicate things by producing a dedicated machine which would have to compete against two excellent products that already cover the mobile gaming market?

    I’ve just had the unpleasent experiance of ordering a number of Toshiba laptops for work. Rather than having a small number of lines, which could be configured to taste, you had to wade through something like 100 different models. Each was subtly different from the other. It took me almost an entire afternoon to work out which one to get.

    In contrast, buying a Mac is a pleasent five minutes. That’s how to sell stuff.

  • H4RRY

    2 different versions of iPhone is highly unlikely, for now. They will most likely concentrate on the software part and improving the current version, which will be a few times better.

    Then, Apple will fork it into a cheaper iPhone probably with same screen size but using a touchpad instead of a touchscreen. Screen size is a commodity that Apple won’t compromise on. After all, this is not a MP3 device we’re looking at.

  • droughtquake

    iNewton/iTablet, xMac mini tower, and an Apple gaming device are all examples of products that have fans, but either don’t have a big enough niche or would encroach too much on existing Apple products. Those who constantly promote them are thinking only of themselves, not how profitable they’d be to Apple. (For myself, I’d like a replacement for my 12″ PowerBook, but I’m not holding my breath.)

  • http://tech.shirl.com Bill Shirley

    I fully expect a new iPhone before May is over and a revved iPod Touch in June.

  • http://www.marketingtactics.com davebarnes

    In my opinion, the AirBook is a great replacement for the 12-inch PowerBook.

    We owned a 12-inch PowerBook that we used strictly for travel. The small screen was somewhat annoying. The keyboard was cramped. It was small, but heavy.

    We replaced it with a white MacBook because of the Intel transition. Bigger than the PowerBook, but easier to use while sitting in a hotel room.

    The AirBook is now the new travel computer. Better screen than the MacBook. Much lighter. Fast enough for email and limited use of Dreamweaver, Illustrator and Photoshop.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ droughtquake

    Writing from my very own (now five years old) 12″ PowerBook, I can say for certain that the MacBook Air is a more than worthy successor. I’m just too short of funds to snap one up right now!

    The prospects of Apple beefing up the Touch into a full slate experience, or indeed shrinking the Air down even further … well they certainly make us lot drool! I agree with the central premise however that Apple will hold off until they’ve a sure-fire hit on their hands. The iPhone / iPod Touch right now are where the iPod was back in 2002; still unified and a good while from diversifying.

  • tundraboy

    At one point I almost bought into the idea of a Mac Tablet but I go back to my original position: It’s a product that pleases no one. (Or a very few.)

    People accept an iPhone-sized device because they trade off ergonomics for portability. With a ‘tweener sized tablet, you don’t get the ergonomics of a full size portable and yet it’s not small enough to fit in your pocket. Only geeks who would proudly walk around with gadget in hand for all to see would love this product. Geeks and parcel delivery guys.

  • Berend Schotanus

    I couldn’t agree more! The Apple strategy is clear and straightforward: either it’s a device that fits in your pocket (and boy, can we add functionality to that…) or it’s a device with a usable keyboard and full size screen (but lighter and thinner than you ever held for possible).

    What I am really curious about at the 3G iPhone introduction is what Apple’s carrier strategy will be. I have to admit this question is not completely without self-interest because the iPhone is still unavailable in the Netherlands and I’m interested to buy one. I hope Apple will bring an unlocked version so that I can keep my current € 5 per month GSM subscription and won’t be forced to change it for a two year € 50 per month subscription.

  • gus2000

    I can agree that tablets and gamepads are unlikely from Apple. However, Jobs does love to make entrance, so… what new product should we expect to see at WWDC? Or will it just be an iPhone2.0 love-fest?

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir


    I think anything other than a 3G iPhone would be lost in all the furore over what a new giant Apple and its SDK satellites have become. Seriously: the original SDK announcement generated extreme excitement in vital circles. WWDC will see some of that realised, and the overall shape of what’s yet to come will be outlined too. I expect it to be a crucial event with long lasting consequences. That message – as Daniel spotted in the article – would only be confused with much in the way of new product announcements thrown in.

    This SDK and Touch platform is how Apple are getting past Windows. It’s as big as 1984 and then some.

  • jfatz

    I will happily accept a consumer-grade tower at iMac prices whenever Apple chooses to release one. No confusion here! Just an almost instant purchase! ;-)

  • Realtosh

    I would have to agree with everything Daniel states here. The ideas are thought through which is how Apple operates.

    However, I will go out on a limb and state emphatically that Apple will release a Tablet-like Touch device. It is only a natural growth and branching of the portable computing device line that Apple began with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

    I will agree that we won’t see it soon, and certainly not at WWDC. In fact, I would tend to believe that there is not even a definitive decision to manufacture or ship an tablet-like device at this time. The tablet prototypes likely exist, but only as top-secret and experimental research of possible future form factors.

    Don’t think that Apple doesn’t want to dominate the entire portable computing appliance market. Apple will build and market whatever device or appliance, which they believe will find a ready and willing market.

    In won’t happen immediately, but it will happen. It will be entertainment and education focused, but will also be an entry to enterprise-focused solutions. The combined market will be an addressable market that will be worth the effort for Apple.

    Apart from the healthcare, warehouse, shipping, there are myriad industries and businesses where small computing devices will facilitate job function. In an information age, many if mot most jobs will have data reporting duties, from mundane data entry to job completion and performance metrics, to sales entries, and point of sale transactions.

    Apple has already shown that they can reinvent something as straight-forward and boring as retail point-of-sale transactions. They got rid of the the bulky table and computer-cum-POS software; and replaced the whole thing with portable handheld transaction devices. Imagine what Apple will do when they set their attention to fixing this problem for retail everywhere. Granted, they have high-value merchandise that fits nicely with their consumer-friendly high-touch and high-tech sales methods.

    I don’t see Walmart nor grocery stores, running out and sending personal shoppers with the purchasers around their stores.But their are millions of small businesses for which Apple could build elegant solutions. I could see many small shops, like salons or antique shops, that could get rid of unsightly register stations and all their clutter. In their place, each employee (of that function type) would have a portable Apple device. This device would have a POS system built in and access to myriad data about each products and current inventory levels. Actual computer servers could be in a back room, or off-site provided as a service from a vendor, or back at home or in the office for mobile professionals.

    Unless an employee has an office job, they will not have easy continuous access to an office computer. For most jobs, it doesn’t make sense to issue a laptop computer. However for many jobs, in an increasingly information-based economy, there will be increased need for data input from sales transactions to job completion and performance metrics.

    The whole portable computing paradigm is changing. Apple will be at the forefront of defining the evolutions in this mobile space. Note the iPhone, MacBookAir, iPod Touch that are making inroads into everywhere computing. There will be more form factors that make extend the technologies that Apple has already introduced in one or more of the above devices. Don’t expect Apple to stand still. They haven’t stopped their intense pace since the Next acquisition. I wouldn’t expect them to stop now.

    Notice that at no point in this comment did I even talk about the entertainment and educational aspects these portable devices. It is a given that these devices would be able to play the audio and video entertainment in Apple’s stable, plus all the goodness that is Internet: email, news, networking, fun. Plus, Apple is putting some efforts into beefing up the gaming aspects of their devices. You can bet that gaming will also be an entertainment option on these future devices. Some devices may even have cellular radios for ubiquitous coverage for the mobile professionals; others will work with wifi in a confined environment like a shop.

    Many students will want a paper notebook-sized device for taking notes in class, working on their assignments, even doing research, and that will have all of the textbooks available in digital format. Every student won’t need to have a laptop computer; but a portable computing tablet notebook can take the place of spiral notebook, textbooks, laptop and library/internet.

    Don’t you think that Apple can and will be at the forefront of developing how humans relate to their computing devices. Apple will experiment with form factor and interface to make people lives more fun and their work and studies easier to get done.

    So I say yes to devices of shapes and sizes that we are not even talking about today. Apple will make them and many of us will buy them. They will be the right size and at the right time, with all that Apple software goodness; so that the market will be ready for lots of them and Apple will have another solid growth platform that will be built upon technologies that have been or are already being developed for current products.

    So although I don’t disagree with the whole of your article (it’s a fine example of RDM goodness – good analysis), I’m not so sure that there will never be a tablet, not that the market is as small and bleak as you suggest: doctors plus UPS and warehouse guys. There are many jobs that resemble that patient/customer focused interactions of an healthcare provider contact. There are many product-focused jobs where product tracking and personnel tracking functions are important.

    Apple may not build all the custom software, but if there is a device with and SDK — I can’t imagine a future without both — than there will be myriad of VAR and software developers that will build that will build the solutions for their industries. Apple will give us the basic interface and software guidelines. Everyone else will provide the textbooks, software for vertical industries, connections for all the major business software packages, games, etc.

    Let the FUN begin.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Realtosh

    Nice comment.

    No one said “never”, by the way. Just not yet. Give it a few years and you’ll get your wish.

    I think it was someone who Gruber linked on Daring Fireball who said just after the Jan 2007 iPhone announcement that “isn’t this the handheld data pad that’s been in every sci-fi for years and we all knew would sooner or later replace paper?”

    That’s how big the Touch platform is.

    You’re quite right about handhelds and slates being suited to whole sectors of human-computer or indeed human-information interaction. The fact that lumbering PC’s sit as point of sale devices is something due to go the same way as the mechanical calculator. It made sense for a time, even had good economies of scale, but we moved past it and never looked back.

    Amazon’s Kindle sparked a great little controversy comparing it as a (rather flawed) paper replacement versus the Touch (which isn’t intended for that *yet*). Daniel reviewed them both I think.

    When the original Macintosh was being developed, Apple fully intended it to redefine how humans handled information. They have the same scope of ambition behind this platform too – talk to anyone interested in technology at all to get a sense for how we’re all fascinated by it – but have learned a few things about product development and marketing in the decades since.

    The iPod really did redefine music for millions … yet didn’t need to be branded as such. “Rip mix burn” handled it better instead. The Touch platform is taking the same successful techniques to this far broader field. Instead of music and handheld video, it’s the very concepts of information and connectivity themselves which are going to be revolutionised.

    Let’s hope Google can keep up and ensure a competitive, rich environment. Microsoft haven’t got it in them.

  • John E

    well, what goes on inside the mind of Apple i dunno. and to be fair, Dan suggests an ‘iTab’ might be offered as soon as next year.

    but the piece is too one-sided. it leaves out a few important advantages an iTab would offer, and it misses one huge market factor that will become more and more important for Apple as time goes by.

    – laptops are overkill for just limited or casual entertainment/communication use. which is all many need when traveling or just hanging around town. and not really convenient. you gotta lug ’em with you in a pack or case. the clamshell totally sucks on an airplane (i travel coach). battery life for playing movies, etc., is too short for a long trip. and sorry, but the MacBook Air is just too expensive for most of us.

    – the iPhone/Touch is underkill for the same functions. the screen and media storage is too small to be a really good visual entertainment device. and the battery life is even shorter than a laptop.

    a scaled-up Touch would solve all these limitations. the extra size will allow a bigger screen and more media storage than the iPhone-sized Touch, and more battery for longer usability than any laptop. the perfect airplane companion.

    and when we travel, we don’t carry everything in our pockets. that is not the right size criteria. we will have some kind of purse or shoulder bag for stuff. a larger paperback book-sized Touch would fit right in easily. likewise hanging out around town.

    and what Dan missed is the growing impact of “older Macs.” we all hang on to our Macs until they physically die or become hopelessly outdated. i’m not going to spend $1000 or more on another laptop until my 2004 iBook stops working. it runs Leopard just fine (what a tribute to Apple’s software, by the way – does any 2004 PC run Vista Premium?). i’m not going replace my iPhone probably for years. my wife still loves her 1st generation Nano. and this is typical of Mac users – long product lifetimes – except the well-to-do or just-gotta-have-the-latest guys.

    so to sell people like us more Mac stuff, Apple has to address needs that are not yet met by its products. like a scaled-up Touch, which i would buy tomorrow.

    as to gaming, i’m no gamer (except for all the simple card and puzzle games) so i dunno. but the combined sales of the DS9 and PSP are significant. so if Apple’s Touch is easy to game with, there is a decent market for that too. it will be interesting to see what 3rd party games are offered for iPhone/Touch this summer.

    so i hope the rumors are true and Dan’s wrong.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ John E

    There are plenty of us who keep on using our kit for a long time (writing on a PowerBook a year older than your iBook here, and my 1st gen Nano is still my only iPod) but Apple’s sales have been booming in recent years. I don’t think they’re facing a crisis to get customers to fork out cash by and large.

    The timing just doesn’t feel right to branch out the Touch line the same moment as the SDK’s first apps ship. It will happen eventually, but not quite yet.

  • Brau

    I wholly agree with everything Daniel has said here and want to add a couple of items.

    I don’t see Apple developing a dedicated gaming platform any time soon, largely because those hardware sales rely heavily on the game developers. Nobody I know has bought an XBox or PSP for the features, instead they buy them to play the latest gotta have game. Releasing any specific gaming product without a killer game is bound to fail miserably and Apple does not have a lock on those developmental relationships. That said, having OS X on the iPod/iPhone is a huge advantage in building toward that possible goal, one that is expanding with each device sold. This is one big advantage the gaming devices clearly don’t have. Games will continue to develop on the iPhone as a sideline until such time as introducing a dedicated gaming device to the marketplace becomes a “no-brainer”. In other words, you won’t see it soon.

    As for tablets, I just can’t see why this idea gets so much attention or why it seems to be lauded as the Holy Grail of development. The iPhone is a tablet and anything bigger simply becomes a bother to carry and/or use. iPhones, with the right software, could easily take over most of the data input tasks most stores use to keep tabs on their inventory. They could also allow stores to communicate to all their employees, as well as being capable of a myriad of other features; something the current spate of dedicated data input devices don’t do. If larger tablets were actually desired, surely we would see them in use in every grocery store and on the display shelves at your local PC retailer, but we don’t. Instead customers buy and use small dedicated handheld input devices. The trend is always toward smaller, less application specific devices, not larger ones, unless you’re talking about TVs. About the only application (I have seen) where tablets seem to have a foothold is the graphic arts where drawing freehand is an absolute necessity; and even in those shops they tend to have a regular PC right beside it for everything else. The tablet just doesn’t seem to be a great interface for most uses. Personally, I don’t think a tablet running OS X would make much difference to that basic human tendency. My take: The iPhone is a tablet. In this small form everyone wants one. All the other makers are copying it as fast as they can. Apple has done it already.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Brau

    I agree: there’s too much nagging for a “tablet” going on at the moment without people realising that the iPod touch and iPhone are already just that. It’s as though people think this was more like 1991 when Apple had just released the first ever recognisable laptop. Bigger models were eventually to come, but everyone’s already lusting after the 15″ and 17″ a long time before they’re due!

    (Not that it wasn’t a really big deal in 1991)

    A tablet which doesn’t fit in your pocket is a very different story to a laptop you just need a bigger bag to handle. It’s a total show stopper for many if not most people.

    The Touch platform very likely will grow out to encompass more sizes and niches as time goes on, but I doubt it will be all of them, and it certainly won’t be NOW!

  • Realtosh

    @ John

    Thanks for your recognition. That’s all the pay I get for my thoughts and words.

    Don’t count Microsoft out. I’m one of the biggest Microsoft bashers there is; and for good reason. They can’t seem to do anything right, apart from their money makers: the monopolies in Windows and Office.

    But they’ve got money and they’ve got some highly paid engineers. Whenever they get their act together, they will become a force to reckon with.

    I just hope Apple locks up the future platform wars before Microsoft figures out what they’re doing wrong. Apple has a tendency to use open source and standards-based technologies. They are not afraid to compete on a level playing field. Microsoft on the other hand tries to force everyone to use some proprietary technology that ties everyone to their platforms and technologies.

    Plus, Apple makes nicer kit.

    But my point stands. Microsoft still collects more profits than any other company in the information technology sector. Beware when you allow Microsoft too big of a handicap. Someday, they may surprise you.

    Why do you think that Apple and Google just never stop innovating. The second you let up, someone will catch up or pass you.

    Let’s not get into the poor, poor, poor little Microsoft. They still collect millions of dollars of free cash every month. And that’s after paying for all of their engineers, marketing, and all the money they piss away on their poorly conceived initiatives to extend their monolpolies into new industries. If we are ever lulled into thinking they are any less than the savage predators that they are, they will eat you or me or anyone else that gets in their way.

    Don’t ever feel sorry for Microsoft or think that they are just a bunch of worthless idiots, their behavior and results notwithstanding.

    If nothing else, they are persistent. They’ve been batting zero for a while. Someday, they will likely get a hit. Hopefully, it won’t be a homerun. But they will eventually get one right, if only because the law of averages will give them one someday.

  • Brau

    @ John Muir

    I agree. I can see the touch interface making way for the absence of a mouse or trackpad … on a normal laptop with a flip up screen. To me as a user it would eliminate much cursor scrolling, making it easier to open random documents across my desktop. That said I type faster than I can physically write so I still desire a keyboard with the screen vertical (classic time tested laptop form). On a portable device (I personally only consider “portable” that which can be effortlessly toted about which doesn’t include anything bigger than a CD) I have much different desires, the first of those are to be small and lightweight. Any heavier or bulky and I want to leave it behind (I have a small pocket camera but the weight is enough that I just don’t carry it with me). The iPhone is light, small, and does all I want in performing basic tasks until such time as I get back to my main input device (PC). I couldn’t ask for a better tablet.

  • Robert.Public

    “Many students will want a paper notebook-sized device for taking notes in class, working on their assignments, even doing research, and that will have all of the textbooks available in digital format. Every student won’t need to have a laptop computer; but a portable computing tablet notebook can take the place of spiral notebook, textbooks, laptop and library/internet.”

    This is what a tablet should be – not just a smaller thing to type on, edit documents, and watch movies, but another ecosystem of revenue streams and hardware iterations … the fifth pillar of OSX.

    This is not just for the students I think, but they are the key to future universal adoption of a digital reader / portable tablet running OSX.

    Apple likes: education, selling media, selling beautiful hardware, portable computing, innovating with new user interfaces, and like the iPod – replacing physical formats with digital.

    The problem: Steve’s idea that nobody reads anymore, Publishing companies, Paper companies, and a lack of viable screen technology.

    The rebuttal:
    1 – Every single person in the industrialized world under 25 years of age is required to read – a lot. Every single furniture store sells bookshelves for a good reason. Borders and Barnes & Noble are pretty crowded where I live. People do, in fact, read. I hope everybody here does…

    2 – Publishing companies would do well to avoid the mistakes of the recording industry and face the fact that digital content will invariably replace physical formats. We just haven’t come up with the delivery system intended for extended reading yet.

    3 – Paper companies kill trees.

    4 – Screen technology is oh so close.

    Education is the most logical inroad for digital reading. You are targeting a young crowd, open to new ways of doing something. They are required to purchase the content as it is, and that content is extremely UNportable in any number.

    Apple has experience in dealing with hostile content providers from this latest round of digital content distribution battles. Publishers will resist, to be sure, but will inevitably buckle. A generation of consumers will embrace it and carry it through to future universal adoption. Start with education and textbooks first, then the rest of the publishing industry will follow.

    This is the hip, game-changing next step for Apple’s portable business; hardware and continuing revenue streams by content sales, specialized applications. I think this is a job for our boy Daniel to analyze the potential for this market (I just spent $800 for bookshelves the other day – would rather have spent that on a slick Apple device and have more space in the apartment).

  • The Mad Hatter

    One option, thought I don’t see Apple doing it for about a year or so, would be a marginally larger IPod Touch, the size of a Canadian 25 cigarette pack. This would have some real advantages for surfing, would cost very little extra, and have space for extra ram.

    Hey, I’d like a larger screen .

  • schininis

    @ Daniel and Robert.Public

    I see something a little different . . . who knows really though . . . that’s why I like this game.

    For me it’s about the media. The iPod took over the music business, literally. Not just with hardware, like Sony did with the Walkman, but with media delivery too. Now they have made aggressive moves into TV and Movie distribution, and of course Apple already has the early lead. So my question is, where can they go next to seal the deal with video, and is there any other media left to put onto the iPod platform?

    When you look at it that way a larger format iPod makes sense. I will make not predict the timing . . . but I WANT one now! So if I were Jobs I would have said last year, “Make me an iPod that is a GREAT movie viewer, maybe a 9″ screen, AND becomes a platform so we can sell books, magazines, newspapers, and anything else you want to read.” NOT a tablet, but a MEDIA device . . . that also has other amazing functions that will be added as 3rd party software comes online. That way you are not trying to sell some sort of new tablet or organizer, you are selling a device that will drive folks to the iTunes Store.

  • ModemGod

    I too will have to agree with Realtosh here on this one. I have been saying to people I know for the past month that I believe Apple should and eventually will make an ultraportable tablet based on the iPod touch but with its length and width dimensions doubled. Having 4 times the screen real estate will allow it to be even better at web browsing, and more importantly it will be better at viewing other types of documents (from Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Office 2008 docs, PDFs, etc.).

    I personally would gladly pay for such a device. Would it cut into the (regular) MacBook market? It may, but that depends on the needs of users, and currently there is no way to know for certain until it is put into the market. I almost bought an iPhone, but at the last minute decided against it because I could not get used to the thin width of the onscreen buttons, which the iPod touch also suffers from this same issue as well. Having a ultraportable tablet sized as described above will allow for twice the width for the onscreen keys, which would allow us men with fat fingers and thumbs to type faster with accuracy on such a device.

    Not only that, but it could benefit from having a 3G cell antenna installed with the ability to hook a SIM into it to allow it to work on any 3G carrier for their $20/month so-called “unlimited” data plans (but we all know they lie via false advertising regarding “unlimited” cell data access). This would allow such an ultraportable device to have much wider access to the Internet from anywhere they could receive a good cell signal. The following features would be noticeably faster with 3G access: web browsing, emailing, using FTP to upload/download files, etc.

    What it comes down to, Mr. Dilger, is that some people (notably me and many others) are looking for an ultraportable computing device that pretty much has the same features as the iPod touch, only with twice the length and width for 4 times the screen size. We all know that larger screens makes us more productive, but some find that even carrying a regular old MacBook around is just too much or takes up too much space for them to use in certain environments (cramped makeshift training rooms, on the bus, on the train, etc.).

    Sure, such a device might not fit into any large cargo pants pockets, but that is okay with me. It will still me MUCH easier to carry than a MacBook with a heavy shoulder bag or backpack. It should come with a nice cloth cover similar to the ones that come with the Asus Eee PC 700 series as a bare minimum but also allow some 3rd-party manufacturers to create more rugged cases for such ultraportable iPod-touch-like tablets.

    Keep this in mind, Dan. We all know that Apple scored big with their multi-touch touch-screen interface on their iPhones and iPod touches. This is just a natural progression of moving that same successful technology to the next size category larger. Just as there was a market for the iPod shuffle and the iPod nano, so will there also be a market for an ultraportable iPod-touch-like tablet. Have it use the same software (customized version of Mac OS X, same iPhone SDK to develop 3rd-party apps, same iTunes to buy/download for free those apps and transfer them to said tablet), and you will find that people will readily eat it up.

  • harrywolf

    Pinpoint accurate article, Daniel, as usual!

    The comments by Realtosh and Robert.Public are well thought out and persuasive, but I cant see a tablet or reader device yet.

    Got me thinking, though.

    Maybe it needs a new type of screen that doesnt have any glare, like a book, so the eyes dont get tired?

    The big reason the tablet aint going to happen – the market is too small.

    And yet……given the right no-glare screen that could double as a Reader, and total touch screen like the iPhone…a movie watcher, book reader, web surfer?
    Book rentals?
    The new world of the Apple library? Buy a Tablet/Reader and get total access to a huge online library for pennies a month?
    Educational revolution?

    Is Robert.Public on to something?

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Note that I don’t usually write what I’d “like to happen,” but what I think will happen. It’d be fun to have a wizzy large tablet that works like a big iPod touch and does desktop style applications. That’s almost got to happen in the next few years, but isn’t ready now.

    Also, the fact that some people want something does not mean that a large enough audience will actually pay what it costs to build it, and buy enough copies to keep it getting built.

    The Newton had lots of fans, but there weren’t enough people buying it for it to make sense for Apple to invest the resources into keeping up a parallel development platform and ongoing hardware design.

    Similarly, there are people who like UMPC (or at least the idea of it), but there aren’t enough sales happening to keep it developing to the point of being practical.

    Apple could throw its resources at making a killer 9″ tablet that served as a book and magazine reader and movie player and web browser. But it already has a 3.5″ device that does most of that for $300.

    How many of those sales should be give up in order to develop a product that would cost closer to $1000 (9 inch screens and the batteries to run them would also be heavy and bulky)? And once it finished the iPod Tablet, how many would sell? Certainly far fewer than $300 iPod touches, and every sale would cannibalize a touch sale, with little ability to get any additional profit margin out of it.

    there’s a lot of people that think Apple should sell a PC shell for $500 and develop drivers for each of the several dozen ATI and Nvidia video cards one can buy at Frys. That would make it easier for PC users to try the Mac, but it would also cannibalize existing Mac sales for a profitless device that cost far more to support.

    Wanting something to happen isn’t the same as figuring out how to actually make a product work and sell at a sustainable profit that isn’t prohibitively expensive to support.

  • John E

    that’s a welcome reply from Dan. i mean, we are all here speculating about:

    – what consumers really will buy.
    – what Steve Jobs thinks consumers will – or should – buy.

    Jobs, i dunno. but i’m going to guess.

    he launched the AppleTV clearly a year early in early 2007. why? to get to that market/concept-identity spot first, even though the device software and iTunes support were not fully ready. now Apple is trying to pull it all together this year.

    same thing, he launched the iPhone same time, but it was ready – just enuff. changed the landscape of mobile communications forever. now he’s trying to take it to the next level this year.

    the Touch is unmistakably the future of full-featured iPod. how well have they sold though? is the market ready? i have seen no statistics. but Apple got to that market/identity-concept first, and now everyone will have to play catch up. i think that is what matters most to Jobs. the market sales will follow.

    that’s why the “iTab” makes sense to launch this year. to grab position on the future, take ownership of that market/identity concept. not to sell a ton of units (tho it might). instead, it’s the “UMPC killer,” because as a focused entertainment/communication device without all the baggage of trying to run every desktop application in the world it can do a great job of what people love to do most – communicate and entertain themselves (not work, although i see the merits of the comments about education uses).

    and now, with Microsoft’s stupid attempt to limit the UMPC PC market to crippled XP equipment, the time is so ripe.

    for details. i agree with ModemGod, a 7″ diagonal screen would be perfect. the keyboard – in landscape (please Apple, let us use landscape mode for all iPhone keyboard work, i’m clumsy) – would be great. not a laptop, but still really easy. and 8 to 10 hours of battery life would be to die for. when you travel you are hung out there all day with no chance to recharge.

  • http://coderad.net StrictNon-Conformist

    Well, Dan, I don’t know yet what you’ve got in mind for what Apple will do besides release the iPhone version 2.0, but I’ve had in mind what mass-market consumer device Apple has been progressing towards, that is a logical addition to their ecosystem.

    Let’s review what we’ve got now, so it starts possibly fitting together:

    1. General Macs of all sizes and portability: check, we’ve got major processing power that’s easy to setup.

    2. iPods of many shapes and sizes: check, we’ve got great ways to play media in a portable format, as much music as you’d likely ever want, or as little as needed, depending on the user, and oh, we can play videos, too.

    3. iPhone: we’ve got this to thank for the start of the Cocoa Touch frameworks for multitouch screen devices, that’s nice and pocketable, too, while being rather intuitive to use. Granted, neither the iPhone or iPod Touch are the greatest for typing speed, and lack tactile feedback, but… everything in life has a budget, and size was one of them. Besides, what you lose in one respect (tactile feedback) works towards your advantage in terms of language flexibility: only one hardware model to produce, and only change localization. Besides the SDK with a powerful OS X involved, there’s currently a fair amount of hardware acceleration for things. And with the iPhone (but sadly, not the iPod Touch) there’s a simplistic, basic camera that makes it much like that of a bunch of other cell phones. Oh, also the iPod Touch and iPhone come equipped with WiFi… I’ll get back to that later ;) Hey, don’t they also have a way to output video to a TV?

    4. We’ve got .mac, where users can readily upload their stuff, sync mail, etc. though it isn’t as powerful as perhaps people would like, and it has a monthly subscription fee. Ok, I wonder what Apple makes on that, since they did their best to give me a free month when I bought my iMac in November, but being one of the more advanced netizens with a far larger webhost capacity and flexibility than Apple offers, I turned it down. But, it is integrated well with Apple’s OS X software.

    5. Apple has their basic media processing software for such things as digital cameras, photo management, and we can’t possibly forget iTunes, a big glue to all of that.

    6. We have the “hobby” Apple TV which Apple has barely advertised (if Apple is advertising it outside their stores, they aren’t advertising it where I find it) and yet has likely made them money, despite how much of a “failure” it would appear to be to many. Heck, they’ve even done major upgrades, and again, I can’t think of any advertising I’ve *ever* seen for it! I need such an apparently profitable “hobby” for myself… must make money when they don’t have to advertise, but I digress. Oh, yeah: it has WiFi.

    7. Fully related to iTunes is Apple’s ties at this time with all sorts of media producers, both audio and video, and how readily people can host stuff on iTunes, even for free, or at least provide links there.

    8. Apple has a large capacity backup device that’s very simple to operate, and… is WiFi-enabled. Yes, there’s a common connection that’s becoming very apparent, but I’m not done yet with the logic… Oh, doesn’t that work well already with Apple TV? I’ve not verified, but it’d seem reasonable…

    9. Apple bought PA Semiconductor, in a move that’s mysterious to many. Really, Apple has always liked to have customized chips, and I don’t think this is at all related to the main Mac systems: it’s all about small device integration. IIRC, they work on processors…

    10. Now this is the connection I made awhile ago (I posted on ArsTechnica many months ago, IIRC of what I believe they’ll do) about the next mass-market consumer device Apple will produce: it makes sense to have the nice Cocoa Touch interface, with the screen, it makes sense for it to have WiFi and video-out, it makes sense for it to be the same size (more or less) as an iPhone/iPod Touch due to weight and handling, and it makes perfect sense that instead of having the power used for 3G or even cellular networks, that the power budget is instead used for doubling the processor power (or more) for the specialized functionality unique to this device, because specialized processing (made available in a device-independent way via Cocoa) makes perfect sense. Also, the price point of this device (not a tablet, per se) is something comparable to what’s on the market now for what it is: Apple can make a notable profit with it for mostly reusing the same hardware as the iPod Touch and iPhone lines.

    What, you ask? Why, iVideo/iCamera! Let’s face it, what’s available on the iPhone isn’t really worth much for video quality, but then, the main purpose of the iPhone is as a phone, and the main purpose of the iPod Touch is (more or less) as a portable media player at a reasonable enough price, and a backdoor flexible portable computing device. But, consider this: a lot of people go for a cell phone with a camera, and some people get all hung up about having a better camera, when in reality, that’s not really a good engineering/budget choice for a phone. By not needing a cell phone antenna and the chips for that, the same form factor should readily fit the same main CPU in the same space and power limits, with an additional CPU (perhaps dual core ARM, or a special PPC chip or whatever) for dedicated photo processing of live video. Last year I bought myself what should be a nice Sony camera that can take video, but honestly, the UI is very confusing. Apple could apply all their existing audio/video processing software to a iPod-like device, and make it obnoxiously straightforward for people to film h.264 video (built-in custom encoding hardware would make a huge difference: but, with enough Flash, it isn’t absolutely needed: if you have iTunes, you already have the most powerful processing system you need: your Mac/PC) which would leave what’s required on the iCamera being the simple editing stuff, and being able to watch/listen to it on the spot, so you don’t need to go back to the main system to do stuff. When you do get back to your main system base, you now have a way to synergistically use your Mac/PC with your AirPort and Time Capsule and your Apple TV with .mac (or just YouTube: YouTube demonstrates the market potential for people making goofball videos just because they can) so you can make long-term copies of your movie (Time Capsule) major editing on your Mac/PC, upload to .mac, burn to DVD on your Mac/PC (if you feel the need), send your movies to the iPods of others/yourself (WiFi helps a lot: viral video, I see/hear you coming!) and upload to the iTunes store (perhaps some will see it being saleable: Apple makes money as the users make money, probably the same deal as iPhone/iPod Touch software), all while making better use of the PA Semiconductor purchase so others can’t readily do the same sort of thing with off-the-shelf components (they worked on very lower power stuff, IIRC). They just need to beef up the optics compared to the iPhone, and they’d have what they need: a portable movie making device for the masses, which are more likely to do so when the equipment makes it easy to edit in-place and reshoot without the tedium of having to review and edit it at the main computer.

    For some reason, I can’t help but think I missed something… :)

    (So no, based on all that reasoning, a MacTablet beyond the iPod Touch/iPhone sounds far less reasonable due to everything previously mentioned and marketing issues)

    So, did I steal a bit of your thunder from what you will be writing?

  • http://coderad.net StrictNon-Conformist

    Oh, there’s one other obvious mass-market device I could see Apple coming out with that’d be a similar price range, but wouldn’t be a living room device, and wouldn’t have to have the smaller screen of the iPod Touch/iPhone, but that the next gen iPhone likely does well enough already: a GPS in-car navigation system with built-in iPod Touch functionality (higher resolution). And of course, it’d have Safari available…

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Get us started on Tablet Macs and watch the comments roll!

    @ Daniel

    Good point regards the mythical “xMac”. It’s not just a matter of Apple shipping the box, but also the hideous mess of driver support (unless users are to be annoyed to find out the only graphics cards they can ever use are those listed on the Apple Store) and of course lost iMac and Mac Pro sales.

    Apple treat their product catalogue like a product itself. No extraneous kit. No duplication. No confusing mess of models.

    They’ll only take the tablet to its future when they’re ready. The SDK and AppStore need to be firmly established first.

  • http://www.hoverboy.com 11thIndian

    I don’t think we’re going to see a creation of a new form factor- rather it will be a merging and evolution of two existing platforms.

    What strikes me a really quite remarkable is that an innovation like MultiTouch has seen it premier on the iPhone. Certainly in computing this is an anomaly. The standard pattern since the beginning of computers is that new functionality starts of in larger devices and eventually work their way down as technology progresses. Certainly, if Microsoft was leading the charge on MultiTouch, their Surface product would have been the first out of the gate, leading to smaller and smaller iterations over decades. What a remarkable challenge it is then that Apple has started with what is sure to be the new interface for the next 50 years on it’s smallest device, and the challenge now is to scale it up to work on laptops and desktops.

    When I think about Apple’s line, my thought really is at this point, “how long will it be before they release new computers in which the keyboard is replaced with a second screen? This new input screen takes whatever form is necessary for the application being used, from a simulated keyboard to a blank drawing surface. Every application will have a specifically designed interface- no more having to learn quick keys or buy plastic overlays for advanced applications. Only as many buttons as you need for the task at hand. But this is all slightly OT…

    What strikes me as flawed about the tablet as a design is:

    1. That its face is unprotected, lending itself to scratching.
    2. There are times when a keyboard will still be the preferred input mode, leaving the user to either tap with one finger while holding, or use two thumbs ala QWERTY keyboards.

    Where am I going with all this? That I think the idea of a tablet and small laptop will merge into a new device which allows for the advantages of both but the deficiencies of neither. Imagine a device roughly the size of an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, made up of two computer “sheets” roughly the thickness of two iPod Nano’s. You open it like a laptop or book and two surfaces are revealed on the inside. It can be oriented like a laptop for quick writing, used like a book to read digital novels, or opened the full 180 degrees to function like the “tablet” that everyone is talking about.

    Below a certain size and you’re into iPhone territory, above 15″ and a more traditional laptop will be best suited. But in this size range, it’s the functional “everything” device that could dominate in the years ahead.

    It’s this iPhone/Laptop merger that I think Apple will develop, and not the niche of tablets which are a good idea in principal, but have limited functionality in real life.

    Danniel’s right. Why make an application specific platform when you can make a platform that is friendly to whatever use the user prefers. With the release of the 2.0 software and the AppStore, the iPhone becomes whatever any user wants it to be: a handheld gaming device, an internet browser, a communications device, a media player… and any application that can be imagined can be parred down to function on it. I’m a video editor, and I wish I had the skills to make my own programs- I’ve already thought through how to scale down the functionality of basic video editing for iPhone use.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ 11thIndian

    If you’ve thought out such an app design well enough, it may be a good idea to write it up online. That is if you want someone else to make the app and the money … otherwise it gets a bit more complicated.

    My copy of Aaron Hillegass’s Cocoa book is still on pre-order, so I’m not quite the one ready to help you!

  • http://www.hoverboy.com 11thIndian

    I have a blog for my video editing company. I’m thinking of posting my ideas for layout and workflow there, open to anyone who wants to fully develop and build the app. I’ll even pay for it when it gets released! I even have a name:


  • stefn

    Here’s why Apple might introduce an iTab:

    * The primary reason Apple will produce a tablet is to establish a new form category that Apple can dominate and, importantly, that will drive adoptions of OSX. The iPhone does this but only subliminally; most users don’t know they are using OSX.

    * For this to happen, Apple will need to supply a solution to a problem. The problem is long books and documents that are bulky, unsearchable, unrevisable, and unsharable if that’s a word. All textbooks from grade 5 through graduate school would be better seen on hardware.

    * The tablet form factor is that of the book, not a new form but a one that cries out for a hardware incarnation, the Kindle notwithstanding.

    * The usefulness of the iPod Touch for what used to be laptop uses is suggestive. Apple is already cannibalizing laptop sales to a degree. And I think to this will become significant as time goes by. At this point, Apple would do well to upgrade users to units that cost $800.

  • tundraboy

    Seems like Bill Gates has more than a handful of pro-tablet allies predicting the demise of the keyboard.

    It won’t happen. Tablet’s are a specialized niche product. After an initial investment in learning time, all of us can type faster using less energy than writing things down by hand. People will always think that for a few dollars more, and not much increase in bulk, they can get a computer with a grown-up keyboard that drastically increases productivity and utility over a pure tablet.

    Those of you who think students will by tablets in droves have probably forgotten how much fun it is to write a 10 page term paper using pen and paper.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ tundraboy

    Coexistence, not displacement…

    Have keyboards killed off paper? Have WACOM tablets murdered pencil? Were they meant to?

    Keyboards are important things. I much prefer writing with one of them instead of old-school pen and paper. But is writing all I do all day long? Is it what anyone is doing besides students stuck right in the middle of a term-paper crunch?

    I don’t think just any old tablet will succeed. MS and Co. have proven that already. But there is something deeply promising there, in the very concept of the internet’s mighty powers in your pocket anywhere you need it.

    The touch platform is going to show us where all this fits. Because right now there’s really no one else in the same game as Apple. Prototypes, consortia, and vapour aside…

  • MikieV

    With many people wanting a bigger screen, i.e. iTab, but many people thinking something that large would share the same miniscule market as past/present tablet computers…

    I’m wondering if the “eyeglass” style of displays, currently trying to find an audience in the portable-video markets, would be a viable (and -much- more portable) alternative?

    The trick would be to have “dual monitor support” so that the glasses -wouldn’t- just be mirroring the iPhone’s screen. (although, the photo Dan uses at the beginning of his April 30th article is impressive!)

    Could the chips that Imagination Technologies designs – the ones Dan mentioned in his April 30th article about gaming graphics on the iPhone – allow for an external monitor to have more pixels than the iPhone’s 480×320 screen?

    If so: I would love to see content displayed on the larger “virtual screen” via the glasses, while leaving the multi-touch display on the iPhone for playback controls… zoom, rotate, etc.

    iPhone’s screen all you need? You’re set.

    Wish you had a larger screen?? Plug-in a set of glasses.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir
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  • Realtosh

    @ John

    That’s exactly what I have in mind. Although I’m not quite so sure that there is a product that is ready for market, or at least that the cost is not yet quite right. I don’t expect Apple to release a product before the iPhone gets much wider adoption rates, which will ramp up significantly with the multiple geographic launches that have been announced for launch soon.

    Apple will explore any size or form factor that they believe may have commercial success. I wouldn’t expect any form factor that would vary much from the current iPhone or iPod Touch for a while; certainly not before MacWorld 2009 or WWDC 2009.

    Dan is right when he says that Apple first has to solidly establish the iPhone and same form factor touch iPod, before branching and expanding the mobile computing line. There will be a merging of the MacBook line at the bottom end size-wise with the upper end of the iphone size-wise and the technologies Apple develops will be used across their product lines as appropriate.

    I’m not advocating any one form factor over any other, as some here who are all lathered up over a tablet or some other product that Apple must make because they want one. I’m just saying that there is an addressable market for devices larger than iPhone that can better handle functions that otherwise could only be done with a laptop.

    The iPhone is already cannibalizing many on-the-go functions that previously could only be done with larger laptops. I see no reason why a slightly larger device of a size yet to be determined that is smaller and cheaper than laptops would not further open up the portable computing market.

    The smaller size would make portability easier; and Apple is exploring the edge of portability in computing. Plus a lower cost device would make it easier for Apple to propose district-wide or school-wide “one child one device” solutions that would incorporate all or most of the textbooks in a digital form, plus would provide each student with their own device for creating their writing assignments and multi-media presentations, doing math problems, reading their texts and other books assigned for learning, plus for doing research in district library depositories and on the world-wide web.

    A lower cost device would also be more appropriate as a portable entertainment and gaming device, more so than at the macBook price points.

    Plus, there are quite a wide potential market for personal information technology device, that will get larger over time. Some of this market will be handled by the iPhone and iPod touch at the smaller end.

    The only point where I disagree with Dan is that I believe that this in between market — bigger than a phone but smaller than a laptop — will be quite large and is an addressable market for Apple. Dan has tended to discount the possibility of any market apart from the doctor and UPS guy. I feel that this view is too narrow; Apple has the technology and vision to create quite a few solutions in this middle space that would create a market that would be anything but niche.

    Dan is a smart guy. His analysis is spot on. Apple would not enter any market unless they believed that they could sell a lot of devices and make a tidy profit making and distributing such devices. I see a developing market here; Daniel doesn’t yet, but he will come around; before or after Apple ships a product.

    The product need not be called a tablet. I’m not constrained by the current concept of what is a tablet; nor should anyone expect Apple to feel constrained in visioning any product. In fact, I would expect that Apple device would be called anything but a tablet since that concept has not done too well commercially apart from modified laptops.

    I see a device that is much less complicated, and therefore less costly than a laptop that Apple could use to address markets that are currently not being served. Apple would take the touch interface technology and software keyboard from the iPhone, plus the software and entertainment distribution systems created for the iPhone and iPod platform; and add the mobile computing technologies from the MacBook lines to create a device that is smaller and cheaper than any current MacBook line device to create solutions for markets that are not currently being served by either the iPhone or any of the MacBooks.

    Don’t put limits on Apple creativity; they certainly don’t. I don’t expect the touch technology to be cheap enough for such a device for a while. It may be at least a year or two for the cost numbers to work. But the cost will come down. When it does, Apple will release a product that will have encounter a successful market update. Many happy customers will thank Apple for thinking outside of the box to deliver solutions that just work.

    Apple won’t sell a tablet. They’ll sell an portable entertainment device. Apple will sell a educational device that will replace laptops and textbooks. Apple will create a device that does portable casual gaming. Apple will create a device that plays movies and TV shows on the go. Apple will create a device for showing off the family photos in a larger but convenient form factor. Apple will create a device that others can develop into solutions for vertical industries that will not only include healthcare and shipping, but any industry where employers expect employees to input or access information, which is increasingly almost everyone. A solution that costs less than a PC will be widely adopted; many jobs will not need a full-fledged computer or laptop. Apple will create such a solution.

    I can’t wait to see Apple’s answer to this problem.

  • stefn

    The keyboard need seems to be a hangup in this discussion. Why? Why not create a tablet that is astonishingly slim and light? These are the critical design vectors all these devices aim at. Include the virtual keyboard for quick notes and notations. When a keyboard is needed, supply one that the tablet unit can dock in. Easy peasy.

  • http://ephilei.blogspot.com Ephilei

    Apple seems to still be continuing to experiment with touch on a desktop OS. If the experiments are successful enough, and they may not be, I could see Apple releasing OS X 10.6 or .7 to be used with desktop/laptop touch screens. The Macbook Air could then morph into a tablet. I think Apple would continue the strict Mac/iPod division and a tablet would be on the Mac side, not the iPod side.

  • Realtosh

    The hardware for many if not all of these solutions will be identical or nearly identical. Apple will just be smart about selling the various solutions with the sexy hardware. As opposed to others before that have tried to sell hardware (that has usually not been too sexy) without any compelling reason to use the hardware.

    Plus one other observation that was hinted at above. Microsoft & Co. tend to create overly complicated solutions without any clear message or addressable market. For example, after tablets didn’t do too well, the tablet concept was designed into twisting laptops. This created added complication and additional expense. The extra cost makes these laptops more expensive than other laptop options, thereby limiting any potential market adoption.

    On the other hand creating a device that is simpler than a laptop, with fewer parts, would net a less costly device that would be able to create market for which laptops are too expensive and too bulky.

    The MacBook Air has shown us where the priorities are in mobile computing. This new laptop that was widely trash-talked by supposed tech experts/ pseudo-journalists, with questionable allegiances and conflicts. Knowing that these technology writers didn’t know a good idea from their elbow; I stated all along that the MacBook Air was going to be the smashing success that it is today. The MacBook Air gives us a big screen, light weight, thin profile, longer battery life, with decent processing power. It isn’t the fastest laptop, nor does it have all the bells and whistles of slots and ports that bigger, uglier and heavier laptops have. The MB Air just gives us what most people need on the go, in a laptop form factor that is convenient to take along.

    There is an addressable market of many people who don’t even need a full laptop. For now, they can make do with an iPhone. I don’t think that the iPhone and iPod Touch will be the only option for sub-laptop portable computing from Apple.

    By taking out the keyboard, the hinge, half the case, what remains is the flexibility 1) to be able to put in a better screen (touch) even if a bit smaller, which would also give us even better portability, 2) to be able to offer the device at much less reduced price point, 3) to be able to maintain profitability at a much lower price point.

    The new device would be in essence a larger form factor of an iPhone, or more precisely, a larger iPod Touch, with a smattering of technologies borrowed from the MacBook Air. Although, I’m unsure how far the iPod nomenclature can be stretched. At some point, it becomes clear that Apple has established a portable computing platform that overtakes the prominence of the iPod, and that cannibalizes the the iPod business (at least the upper-end anyway). The only dedicated music players will be at the lower price points. Music will be but one of many many functions that will be available on Apple’s simple but elegant portable computing hardware.

    The iPhone just whetted people’s appetite. We haven’t seen the half of it yet. Soon we’ll see iPhone 2.0. The iPod Touch gives us just a shadow of what’s to come.

    There is room at the bottom end of the MacBook line — both size-wise and price-wise — that Apple can exploit profitably. With an appropriately sized and priced device, they can open new markets with a profitable device that will help to cement Apple’s position at the forefront of mobile computing.

    To the future and beyond.

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    Mad Hatter wrote: “One option…would be a marginally larger IPod Touch, the size of a Canadian 25 cigarette pack.”

    Um, since I’m neither Canadian nor a cigarette smoker, just about what dimensions are you talking about here?

  • labrats5

    You are absolutely, 100% right. Everyone on appleinsider is obsessed with this thing, and nothing I say to them can convince them that an apple tablet makes no sense, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    What would make sense, either this year or next year, would be to split Botha the iPhone and iPod touch lines into pro and consumer lines. The two most common complaints against them are that they are too expensive or that they lack too many features. One line simply cannot address Both those complaints at once. Splitting the lineup would not split the dev platform, it would just enable them to widen there market.

  • macpeter

    There is enough room for a big screen ipod without canabalizing macbook sales, because such a device would serve a complete different market. ipod is entertainment and will never be a notebook replacement. ipod is ultramobile entertainment, but what´s about car- and airplane entertainment. This is a giant market and the only import function missing is a bigger screen so about 7 inch and some sort of navigation software.
    You dont need a fully featured Computer to bring the digital world in your car !! And a price point around 500 to 600 dollar would just be sweet in a market, where standard multimedia and navigation equippment is up to 4000 Dollar.

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