Daniel Eran Dilger
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A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch

macbook touch
Daniel Eran Dilger
The next big thing for Mac laptops: a color LCD touchpad that brings the company’s iconic touch interface of the iPhone to Mac users. Here’s how it fits into Apple’s previous work and how it adds value and differentiation at surprisingly little additional cost.

Articles in this Series:
What’s Next from Apple: New iPods Sept 22, iPhone OS 2.1, iTunes 8.0
Two Decades of Portable Macs: 1989 – 2009 (updated)
The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push
A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch
Delivering the “state of the art new products at prices competitors can’t match” promised by Apple executives in the company’s July financial results conference call would require ‘something really new that captures people’s imaginations,’ as Bill Gates said of the original Mac nearly 25 years ago.

Software Differentiation.

Apple still has something really new that is capturing imaginations, something that Dell and HP can’t match: the software expertise and interface design savvy that is obvious to anyone who has seen the iPhone.

All of the PC makers have relied on Microsoft to do their software development, a strategy that worked only when Microsoft served as the common denominator across the entire PC industry and competition among PC makers was only related to hardware cost.

Dell differentiated itself by developing highly efficient PC distribution, while HP has struggled to plunge PC prices to compete, forcing Dell down with it. Neither were ready to compete against a reinvigorated Apple with unique software technology, particularly as Microsoft dropped the ball, exposing the entire monoculture of the PC market to a blight of consumer apathy with Vista.

Vista 1984

Microsoft’s Zune, Vista, and Windows Mobile 7 Strategy vs the iPhone
Windows Vista, 7, and Singularity: The New Copland, Gershwin and Taligent
Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won’t Be Like 1995

Hardware Differentiation.

Apple is not only competing against its PC rivals in terms of software, but also in hardware features. By putting an iPhone screen into its laptop line, Apple will draw a line of differentiation that will make it even more obvious for consumers that Macs are much more than just PCs running a different OS.

As the previous article pointed out, Apple has volume buying power in consumer electronics that dwarfs that of other PC makers. Apple already has orders in for tens of millions of iPhone touch screens.

HP and Dell don’t have more than a tiny fraction of that with their slow selling PDAs and failed MP3 players, and simply can’t afford to custom design any significant CE integration. They already do very little custom work on their PCs, and really only act as assemblers and resellers of commodity PC parts.

The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push

Something in the Air.

The MacBook Air demonstrated the demand for new technology. Pundits cackled about its price and tried to cheerlead for rival products the offered its performance in a bigger box, or less performance in a smaller box, or less of everything in a cheaper box, but the market demonstrated that people will pay a premium for a sexy, well designed product.

The MacBook Air has become a wildly popular, highly successful product, not just a flashy concept model as many other companies’ high end mobile laptops are.

The existing MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup is now due for a three year overhaul. Rumors suggest a new slimmer casing with a redesigned battery bay that exposes an easier to access hard drive and RAM. That’s all fine and good, but it’s not enough to carry Apple through another three years of differentiation. Adding a color LCD in place of its single button, multitouch trackpad will.

AppleInsider | Apple’s next-gen MacBook Pro casing design revealed

SideShow Bob.

Adding a secondary display is an easy gimmick. Take Microsoft’s Windows SideShow, which the company encouraged PC makers to add to their laptops as a feature of Windows Vista. The premise: users could poke at a four way joystick next to the the small display to access email and check contacts without having to open up their laptop and wait for Vista to slowly boot or wake from hibernation.

SideShow Vista

CNET raved about the wildly impractical boondoggle idea, which required the same kind of specialized support from developers to do anything useful for users, just like the Microsoft Surface. But most people haven’t even heard of the feature, in part because PC makers can’t afford to put it on their mainstream laptops, now selling at an average retail price of around $700. Additionally, why not just consult your smartphone to do those kinds of tasks?

SideShow is fixed to your huge laptop making it less than accessible while not even updating your information live; it only shows you a partial view of the static content on your laptop, not your current messages. SideShow is the kind of committee-designed foolishness that can only impress the reality-challenged gadget hounds at CNET who rave about poor selling consumer devices and can’t figure out why the public doesn’t share their breathless excitement for the empire’s new birthday suits.

That’s not to say dual screens are dumb idea. Many flip phones have a tiny screen on the outside to make it less necessary to open them up just as Microsoft tried to sell with Vista. Many desktop users plug in dual 17“ displays for a view that’s far more affordable than one huge display with the same overall resolution. Nintendo’s DS uses two screens to give it more flexibility and a distinctive identity at a cheaper price than Sony’s larger screened PSP.

Why Add a Color LCD Trackpad?

The point of having an LCD trackpad on the MacBook would solve a different problem. It wouldn’t just be a stupid gewgaw like SlideShow. It would turn the trackpad from a simple input device into an infinitely configurable input and feedback mechanism.
It is unrealistic to add a 15” touchscreen to a laptop’s main display, both because of cost and because of the strain related to holding your hand to the screen to smear around oily fingerprints. However, an iPhone-sized touch screen would give Macs a powerful touch input system that would put rapid access to menus, widgets, and lists literally at your fingertips.

The iPhone already proves how to seamlessly interact with regular controls such as popup menus on the web, converting them from devices designed to be navigated with a mouse pointer into dials that can be flicked through more naturally with a finger swipe. Two fingered zoom, scroll, rotate and click controls are already exposed on the MacBook Air.

Imagine if your trackpad could present customizable options for enhancing those controls with whatever level of complexity you desired, from a simple way to dial through menus faster than the careful mouse-pointer targeting currently required, to a fully custom panel that could accommodate anything from a ten key to the most sophisticated touch input and feedback system one could imagine in software.

Applications could invent their own specific uses for it, but out of the box it could offer an immediate way to target menus, launch apps, put existing Dashboard widgets at your fingers, and perform other shortcuts faster than the user can navigate the main interface with the trackpad. It would also silence critics who still think the Mac only supports a one button mouse.



“A State of the Art Product Transition…”

Of course, adding such a highly visible feature would throw a wet blanket on existing laptop sales. Who would buy an existing regular MacBook when the new model had a dual screen input device? One might also ask, “Who would buy a iPod mini after the Nano came out?” Or a PowerBook G4 after the Intel MacBook Pro was announced, or an iPhone after the iPhone 3G was released.

In each case, Apple let inventories dry up dramatically in the weeks before the new model, most recently taking a major hit in iPhone shipments despite a healthy demand prior to the availability of the iPhone 3G. If you haven’t noticed yet, today’s Mac laptop inventories are severely constrained.

Apple would incur a cost hit when installing an iPhone-style screen into the MacBook. According to speculation by iSuppli, the original iPhone’s bill of materials and manufacturing costs amounted to around $260. The company guessed that the display and touch screen made up 20% of that, around $56. Base on those figures, for Apple to add the feature profitably it would have to charge around $100 more for its laptops in an already competitive market.

However, what if Apple added the feature to blow away competition in the laptop space rather than to make a profit on $56 of additional hardware? That might result in a “product transition” that would cause a short term hit on margins, yet result in greater revenues and ultimately profitability in the long run that made the jump worth it.

The transition to Intel involved lots of short term costs that were clearly worth it, and the design of the iPhone and MacBook Air required initial investment that took months to pay back. The fact that Apple has already warned investors of this “product transition” means the company is ready to hit the ground running.

“… at Prices Competitors Can’t Match”

Dell and HP don’t have any in house expertise in the kind of software integration needed to deliver such a product. They rely upon Microsoft for that, and Microsoft is current working to deliver touch features in Windows 7 and Windows Mobile 7 that won’t be ready until at least the end of 2009.

That’s assuming that Microsoft can pull it off, can do it on time, and can do it without compromise given Apple’s recent furious efforts to patent all of its work. So far, Microsoft has only demonstrated copycat touch technology already delivered in the MacBook Air and iPhone.

While Microsoft was able to copy the original Macintosh, in large part because Bill Gates forced John Sculley to hand over a free license to use Mac inventions in 1985 or else risk the immediate termination of Excel on the Mac, it has been stymied to clone Mac OS X.

Instead, Vista had to deliver clumsy and inferior alternatives to Exposé and other familiar elements of the Mac desktop due to Apple actually working to protect its inventions this time around. Microsoft was also unable to deliver a functional iPod replacement that any consumers wanted to buy. So HP and Dell might never get delivery of the technology they would need to copy Apple’s highly visible LCD trackpad.

Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Ten Myths of Leopard: 10 Leopard is a Vista Knockoff

CE Clone Home.

Other phone makers have similarly rushed to market iPhone clones, but those models either lack multitouch features or just deliver simple tap screens that require awkward pressure, a fingernail, or a clumsy stylus to use them. CNET and other sites have done their best to distract from the very real differences between the iPhone’s touchscreen and those in inferior imitative devices, but users are seeing the differences themselves.

Even if Dell and HP could figure out a reasonable approximation, the fact that they currently aren’t selling ten million iPhones means they’d lack the economies of scale to risk putting such a screen on their laptops, because the higher price would cause them to lose sales to cheaper machines lacking any fancy LCD touchscreens.

In the commodity world of PCs, cost is often the only competitive factor. Adding $100 to a $700 laptop is far harder than hiding $56 dollars of hardware within models ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 where Apple sells its products. Additionally, Apple’s buying power would allow it to buy up all of the high quality components, leaving Dell and HP to buy reject components on the cheap.

Lots of New Buyers.

That gives Apple the opportunity to blow away users with a feature that would clearly differentiate its mobile line for years, more closely associate its Macs with the iPhone brand, and jump from today’s 8 to 10% of the US market to a figure closer to 30% within just a year. We already know Apple has 66% of the consumer-oriented retail market for machines above $1000 in the US; why not take the rest?

This suggests Apple could take the unusual step of releasing its new MacBooks and MacBook Pros together, perhaps even at the same time that it launches its new iPods, which do not appear to be taking any huge risks in terms of wild new designs this year.

By giving iPods a little bump and releasing them next to a new fleet of iPod touch-integrated laptops, Apple would blow out huge publicity right after having sold out its existing inventory of laptops to back to school buyers, who got free $299 iPod touch models as part of the deal.

And what about existing MacBook users? There’s no technical reason for not letting them plug their iPhone or iPod touch in via USB and activating it as a color touchscreen to expose the exact same functionality. That might prevent existing Mac and iPhone users from rushing to get a new LCD-equipped MacBook, but Apple really needs new buyers, not just more of the same.

The company plans to sell lots of iPhones over the next year, reportedly taking orders for 40 million. If only half of them also ended up buying a new laptop, Apple would double its entire installed base of Macs and triple its annual unit sales, easily outpacing Microsoft in revenues.

So far, the evidence is only circumstantial. Leaked images have only shown what purports to be the back of the new MacBook cases, not the touchpad area. We can only infer that Apple would want to sex up the trackpad in the same way that it lit up the PoweBook’s keyboard, and to continue following its incremental progress to deliver increasingly sophisticated multitouch trackpads in recent MacBooks and again on the Air.

We’ll have to wait a month or so to see if Apple will revolutionize its Mac laptops using the technology it has already paid for on the iPhone. I’m betting it will.

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  • harrywolf

    GewGaw? Read more Dickens, Hardy, maybe Conan Doyle, and the word wont be a stranger to you.

    How about we have the touch screen display ON the screen? The trackpad has the touch screen control, but the actual touch screen appears on the desktop so you DONT have to look up and then down constantly.

    There is a finger-like cursor (or two of them) and the gestures occur on the trackpad and the feedback and cursor(s) appear on the display in a separate box.

    That just might work, IMHO.

  • JamesK


    It’s an interesting analysis and I’m sure that we will see something like this eventually. The best thing about it is the flexibility it offers from being a screen. I’m completely skeptical of popular notions of touch screens on laptops and desktops; greasy finger prints, unergonomic, and the annoy fact of having your hands in the way of your eyes. This works with the iPhone, however, due to the space limitations. With a laptop as you described, where the primary screen remains visible, it’s a good idea.

    But I really don’t see this just yet, I do not see it as you’ve described it as a strategic priority for Apple, and I seriously question some of your numbers. As cool as this may be, this, and this alone will not cause everyone to buy a Macbook who has up till now held out. It will not make for a large expansion of the OS X user base.

    Right now, I see Apple’s priority in the expansion of the iPod Touch/iPhone userbase. That is the quickest and easiest way to increase the OS X userbase, all without necessitating anyone switching to an entirely new OS and buying new applications for whatever they do. Buying a cheap iPod Touch costs much less, introduces people to OS X user conventions, and provides few other disruptions.

    Also, the whole idea of a laptop computer is really a dinosaur. Once touted as the future of the personal computer, it is on its way out. The “personal computer” will be a device which is truly personal, it will fit in your pocket, carry the information you need, and offer you access to the internet. As this concept grows in power, the need for a laptop will diminish to only those who have a compelling need for full power portability.

    Apple’s push this holiday season will be to get an iPod Touch device to market at a substantially lower cost. They need to do this to keep any other upstart media players from getting a foothold and they need to continue to aggressively increase the userbase and encourage developers. This is much, much more critical to Apple’s long-term strategy than a slightly more capable laptop.

    But you are in the right direction, I believe. Something like what you’re describing will come along. I have no doubt that the newer, flatter keyboards for the iMacs has foreshadowed something, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sport touch screens of their own soon enough. The mouse and traditional keyboard are archaic technologies and we must move on.

    But right now the important thing isn’t laptops or desktops. Bill Gates founded Microsoft with the idea that there would be a computer on every desktop. Steve Jobs is moving to put a computer in everyone’s pocket. The iPhone is the first move in that direction, the affordable iPod Touch will seal the deal.

  • designguy

    @ Daniel

    Correction for your wrongness….

    Macs may have a way to handle multiple displays, but just plugging in a multi-touch is not just another display. There are controllers and chips, that handle visuals or gestures. There is a lot “new here,” or Apple would have handled this in the past rather than just multi-touch on a premium Mac Book Air.

    Further more! Touch screen supply checks indicate no increased levels of inventory. All of the ordered touch-screens correlate to iPhone production ramps. Even if Apple can get these screens cheaply, they have not ordered them for the Mac Book Touch. Check with iSupply!

    I will be the first to admit my wrongdoings, but in this case Daniel, you have overstepped your boundaries.

    So Daniel, you say that Apple has nothing more to do than “plugging the display into the system,” but there is really so much more. If you look at the iPhone breakdown, one can see that there are a few chipsets that handle both touch or visualization feedback. How will these systems integrate into both the hardware and software systems and subsystems of Leopard. I know, lets add support for them in the OS…….
    Reading over the comments, no one ever said anything about “embedding a separate CPU and/or subsystem.” I did mention the required support for a chip controller on the touch-screen. Such a controller would have to be able to access specific features though. When someone pinches in Safari, all that happens is that the broadcom chipset tells the OS to increase the text size (Command +//-). Beyond these already built in features, a LCD touch screen would need to handle more advanced features, and there is not support for them yet, period.

    I will give you the widget issue, as they are written in HTML and visualized in CSS, WebKit should be able to handle them for the screen.

    No one ever said that you couldn’t get “fancier,” but how will the OS handle this? I really want to believe that Apple will do this with their new Mac Books, but I see no evidence that supports this claim.

    By the way, the API reference I mentioned would be allowing third party software developers a chance at customized interfaces. I already stated that without it, only Apple features would be supported, and I doubt that they would allow only themselves in such a developers marketplace. We can not have Windows doing it better, now can we….?

    By the way Daniel, Apple already markets the multi-touch on the Mac Book Air as, “like the iPhone.”

    As far as your “three finger tap,” Apple already handled this in a patent filling for customized gesture interfaces…


    So it is a little obvious, but none the less, not supported as yet!

    I am surprised by you Daniel, this editorial is more unfounded than you usually go, might we consider you the next Kevin Rose? LOL

    I sincerely apologize for the insult, and I truly hope I am wrong, but I can not see this working from a technological standpoint.

    Otherwise I agree whole heartedly with your analysis on replacing the entire keyboard with a touch panel. Not feasible, what-so-ever at this point.

    Addressing your specific application uses………
    While I see these as potential and helpful uses, they are unfounded.
    I just don’t have time to critique every one of them.

    Address and data detection with map features. Wrong

    iPhoto. Wrong

    Dialogs. Who uses the mouse, it is called “Command, S.” Although your other ideas, cancel and proceed, have merit. Kudos!

    Keynote, Global inspectors! Now you are thinking, but still, unsupported!

    Spaces / Expose / Dashboard
    Not to be rude, but duh, hot corners……
    I use them constantly, many people seeing me work say that I look like I am in the movie “Minority Report.” If these require too much thinking, then get a PC.

    100 Key Recall
    Only people that are untrained or unintelligent, can not figure out key commands. Go up to the menus and learn them……..
    Complexity with physical keyboards, seriously?
    I would spend more time looking down at a special touch-keypad, than pressing the short-cut keys.

    I hope I bring a “touch” of reality to this fantasy world. Daniel, time to weigh some serious anchor…..


    No, you are no where near conservative, but thanks for playing. If you want conservative, look at Apple’s predicted iPhone sales for 2008.

    @ labrats5

    Interesting point on the glass, you made me go pet my iPhones for a minute. Then I went and played with my Waccom and MacBook Pro for good measure. As long as feedback as smooth and agile, there should be no problem, well as a graphics designer anyways. LOL
    It does feel strange though, almost unrealistic.


    I am glad to see someone thinking about the “hot corners,” included with the conceptualized MacBook Touch trackpad. One of the best ideas as of yet, considering that it actually increases my production speed.

    Thanks all, and as always, thank you Daniel for your efforts.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    “Way to much friction on glass for the pointer movement to be fluid enough to be pleasant and usable.”

    Put your finger on an iPhone, and compare it to an existing trackpad. There’s less friction, not more.

    “Macs may have a way to handle multiple displays, but just plugging in a multi-touch is not just another display. There are controllers and chips, that handle visuals or gestures. There is a lot “new here,” or Apple would have handled this in the past rather than just multi-touch on a premium Mac Book Air.”

    That’s actually not right. The iPhone display and touch screen are separate elements. One is a display, the other is a sensor. Yes, the sensor needs a chip to interpret input, but so does a trackpad. In fact, there isn’t a lot of difference between the multitouch trackpad and the multitouch sensor of the iPhone.

    And so, it wouldn’t even be difficult to drag a window down into the trackpad, let alone use it as a specialized display area for launching Widgets, etc. And given that Cocoa Touch and Core Animation both deliver an easy way to create animated UIs, there isn’t lots of work to do here.

    I find it interesting to present this idea to people (including other in person) and find many people don’t see any potential. It’s like looking at the iPhone and saying, “well it looks nice, but what would I do with it?” ha

  • JamesK

    “I find it interesting to present this idea to people (including other in person) and find many people don’t see any potential.”

    Oh, I see the potential. And in particular I see the potential on both laptops and particularly desktops for a touch screen that is the size of the current keyboards, resting just where the trackpad now is. That has astonishing potential to be a game changer when it arrives, and I’m sure it will.

    But I don’t see something as small as the iPhone’s screen being overwhelmingly convincing or causing a dramatic increase in the sales of Mac laptops. At that size, it’s not a game changer.

    A larger iPod Touch tablet kind of device (but still smaller than the smallest Macbook) would be a game changer . A Mac laptop with a large touch screen where you’d place the small screen would be a game changer. An iMac with a large touchscreen/keyboard combo would be a game changer. But a Macbook with a tiny little touch-screen would merely be a prelude, and a not particularly impressive one at that.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    A touchscreen iMac, 15″ MacBook or a “Touch” would be expensive and whizzy, but quite impractical. Nobody would want to type on a glass surface. But having a small multifunction screen that was big enough to handle useful touch manipulation, but small enough to be fairly cheap would be ideal. You could go between typing and touch as easy (easier) than between typing and mousing.

    There is already a touch screen MacBook – they were showing it off at Macworld. It’s silly and impractical. You have a huge exposed screen, perhaps with a crank swivel hinge like the stupid tablet PCs. Nobody wants those. Nobody wants to interface with a glossy screen. I don’t see that changing soon.

    Having a trackpad that lights up is such an obvious draw. It would suck people across the store just to play with it. I find myself wanting to do “iPhone things” all the time at my puter. Being able to sample things, pull them down into the trackpad for visual touch manipulation, and then throw them back into a conventional desktop is the next thing. You don’t need or want a huge surface to do that.

  • LuisDias

    Well, Daniel, I admire you for putting your hand on the fire, but boy I do believe it will burn badly!

    If nothing more than aesthetics, look at the photoshops you made up here. Is that beautiful? No. It’s ugly. The little screen is in complete disharmony with the entire layout of the laptop. It will help if it’s black, but that would be an anti-climax change of aesthetics, after the change to aluminum, which is beautiful.

    Can Apple do it? Of course it can and I also don’t get much of the fire you get on this issue. Apps are there (widgets), it’s only a second screen, etc. Very easy. Ergonomically and functionally? A disaster. You’ll have two screens to look at, and you’ll be confused as to what screen “controls” what. You’ll have multiple ways to do things, and that’s not exactly the Apple way (think about two buttons in your mouse and you’ll get it. It’s the LESS IS MORE mantra, not otherwise, Daniel. Apple is about beauty, simplicity, harmony, not gimmicks). The iPhone is brilliant, but it is ONE screen that grabs your entire attention. There’s no confusion there.

    Simply put, when I was waiting for MBA, it crossed my mind that they could have put the iPhone in there somewhere. But it didn’t make sense. And it still doesn’t.

    Will they surprise us? Well, don’t they ever? That’s the main reason we are speculating. There’s no fun speculating at what Windows PCs might do, because more often than not, it will be dumb. And it seems there are few other ideas than what you presented that somehow connects their current path of developing, usability, ease to make, and be considered “innovation”.

    But as Apple also didn’t marketed the PDA they did built in their R&D labs, they will also not market this MB you define here, Daniel, but which is probably lurking in the Apple’s labs, of that I’m completely sure!

  • dicklacara

    I’ve been doing some google research to see what is possible (if not yet practical).

    Here’s a concept computer that suggests that OLED technology has advanced to the point where it matches LCD density, but provides a brighter display at much less power. Cost is, likely, an issue.


    Then, I began thinking about keyboard use– piano keyboards, in particular.

    1) One productive use of the piano KB is to tap out a simple melody with a single finger.

    2) A slightly more productive use is to tap out the melody using several fingers, alternately, one after the other.

    3) With, a bit of piano lessons, you can use both hands, together, as above, to increase your note output.

    4) We could stop here, and we would be pretty productive (note output) and probably produce some acceptable music.

    5) But, to take it to the next level, we can press several fingers at once to produce chords with one or both hands

    6) Depending on how quickly we attack, how hard we press, and how long we hold (keep pressed) we can produce subtle or noticeable effects.

    7) We are producing a musical composition as opposed to a simple jingo/tune or melody and accompaniment.

    OK, bring it all together–

    We most would agree that typing on a qwerty kb hasn’t changed much over the last 30 (actually 130) years. Technology has advanced, but we are at step 4 above: typing with alternate, single, fingers (try saying that in rapid succession) with both hands. Sure, there is the occasional 2 or three fingers at once, and type-ahead– but it is still, basically, one-finger typing (albeit very fast, for some).

    What if we could use the advances in technology to change the way we use a qwerty keyboard?

    We could learn to play multi-finger chords as well as (and along with) alternate single fingers. (whew :) We could type WORDS, PHRASES and PICTOGRAMS (or even sheet music) by pressing several keys at once– like a stenotyper.

    Apple, or someone, could make a hi-tech qwerty keyboard that allowed this. We’d have all the things (some might say crutches) we are used to: tactical keytops, familiar layout, bumps on the F and J keys to locate the home row, satisfying click/depression of the keys.

    Likely, we could increase our production, several-fold, by playing chords on a physical qwerty kb. But, sooner or later, the physical nature of the keyboard will limit our production: the time it takes to press/release a key; the time it takes to move from and return to the home row; etc.

    For drill, let’s say we could remove the physical limitations of the qwerty keyboard, by replacing it with a MultiTouch equivalent (screen or pad)
    — The “home row” is wherever your hands are currently hovering (no need for key bumps & no need to move from/to the home row)
    — The layout and keys are wherever your hands/fingers are in relation to the virtual home row (above)
    — The key size and spacing fits your hand/finger size rather than vice versa (no need for tactical keytops)
    — The depress/release cycle is limited by your fingers rather than physical movement of a key (less delay)

    I truly believe that I (or anybody) could type much faster and much more accurately with a virtual MultiTouch keyboard– once I learn how to use it, and once the MultiTouch software “learns me.”

    And that’s just for starters– you could:
    — use your thumbs, palms, wrists, sides of hands (or even elbows) for touch entry (think Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano)
    — use attack to indicate emphasis (bold or italic)
    — you could use gestures to select/copy/paste/split/rearrange text
    — you could use pinch to resize text and change font size
    — you could angle your finger attack to compensate for long or short fingernails
    — you can type/gesture/etc. while wearing surgical gloves
    — you can easily clean (remove crumbs & a spilled drink) from the surface.

    If you do some research, you will discover that the querty keyboard was designed in the 1870s to prevent clashing and jaming of typebars if the keys were pressed in too-rapid succession. It was designed to slow you down.

    Well, this is the 21st century– we no longer have typebars… we no longer need to be slowed down… we no longer need to be limited by that millstone called qwerty keyboard!

    Well, you might ask: “How many keys do we need and in what layout?”

    The answer is: “It depends on what you want to do!”

    A qwerty kb has 100 (or so) keys and maxes out at 80-100 wpm.

    A steno kb has 22 keys and maxes out at 240-300 wpm.

    The iTunes Equalizer has 11 sliders with about 40 positions each.

    The piano kb is a repetition of a 12-key (7 white and 5 black) pattern. Consider the magic that has been created with that simple pattern.

    A guitar has a 6×20 kb, a mandilin has an 8×17 kb, a ukulele has a 4x 12 kb.

    An adding machine typically has 18-22 keys, a calculator 48+ keys

    A phone has a 12-key keypad.

    And, so it goes…

    Then, ask yourself: “What device can ‘do’ all these keyboards?”

    There is only one answer: “A MultiTouch display* pad!”

    So, the question is not: “Should we go to MultiTouch Display pads?”-

    The question is: “What are you waiting for?”

    And, the answer is: “We’re waiting for you, Steve!”

    The way to do it is Apple’s way– balls out!

    Start with a portable: 2 full size MT Displays the full height & width of the particular computer (so that when the surfaces are deployed in the same plane, they can be used as one continuous surface). Include WiFi, BT & cell. No mouse, traditional kb or keypad, or optical drive– those who need these can dock with optional external devices. The displays can be deployed: horiz-vert, horiz-horiz, vert-vert, or back-back. Both, either or neither can be used as a display and/or a display MultiTouch surface.

    … my $1.02

    *I believe you need a MultiTouch display pad rather that just a MultiTouch pad. The display allows you to see the layout and customize it as necessary. It also allows you to type/slide/pluck/play/key with one or two fingers as well as by touch. The display allows you to learn at your own pace, refreshes your memory when you haven’t used a layout for a while, or need to do special combinations of strokes.

  • LuisDias

    dicklacara, that’s a hell of a comment! I agree with you somewhat. It’s like Star Trek’s TNG kind of keyboard. Imagine. You touch the keys and they behave as being slightly pressed, and highlight in some subtle way. Then you enter an app and it becomes a full piano keyboard. Or a guitar. Or it becomes a full “wacom” table. You are right in asking the question: Is this the future?

    The answer should be obvious, Daniel! And this is not a MB “touch screen”. I agree that solution is crap. I can’t see myself touching the vertical screen, it’s stupid. But that obsession over “physical” keyboards, isn’t that exactly the same idiotic criticism people made to the iphone?

    Considering these changes, an iphone-sized little brat screen which is completely in disharmony with the aluminum “1970’s” keyboard is a gimmick.

    I still maintain that such a change that I and some people here are proposing is not easy, it is a big change (and people may not like it), and it means a lot of developers’ work (much more than your proposal). So I don’t place my hands on fire for it. But I’m a coward, which I admit that you are surely not ;)

  • dicklacara


    If I recall correctly, the company that Apple bought to get MT technology had already developed (and sold) a customizable MT display surface to be used as a kb, mouse plus gestures.

    So, it is not too far a leap to say that Apple could do this, today!

    As for reflection/distraction issues, these are easily addressed:
    — use a matte surface rather than shiny
    — display the virtual kb in darker tones (you could make it look like a picture of an existing aluminum, black or white kb)

    I agree in that I don’t want a small “brat” screen, or move things from the display to a touch surface for manipulation (then back, again).

    However, there are times when I would like to just reach out and touch the display to rearrange, resize or flip through a stack. I can’t see power typing on a vertical screen.

    The device I tried to describe in my last post was a 2-surface device where each surface could be positioned and used for the needs at hand (pun).

    If OLEDs are practical from quality and cost standpoints, you could take advantage of the fact that OLEDs are flexible. You could have 1 continuous surface with 1 part deployed vertically (display surface) and 1 part displayed horizontally (keyboard surface).

    This would be the typical desktop or laptop deployment where 1 surface (part) used mostly for display and the other surface (part) for data entry. The beauty is that I could use MT gestures or Display information on either surface as needed.

    Another deployment would be to deploy the entire surface (both parts) in the vertical plane.

    This would be a MT display or a kiosk, etc., likely, with limited data entry. The “display” could be rotated into landscape, portrait or other modes.

    A third deployment would be the entire surface (both parts) in the horizontal plane.

    This would be a MT light table, AV slider panel, drawing surface, etc.

    The back to back deployment could be used (with or without external horizontal key surfaces) as a teaching aid or for collaboration..

    Finally, the flexible OLED would all some great opportunities to configure a larger display (part) and a smaller keyboard (part). Theoretically you could have a larger display in a smaller package than the traditional clamshell. For example, the clamshell uses 1 to 1 display to keyboard surface. A flexible OLED would allow a 3 to 1 or other ratio in the same (or smaller) package size.

  • LuisDias

    dick, aren’t you working on some R&D company? You sure have ideas, and good ones at that. Yes, I can imagine that pretty easily. One single OLED screen folding in the middle inside an aluminum case. In the future, we’ll probably even have some kind of those things the greeks had (two tubes unfolding a paper inside), but instead of a paper, you’d had an OLED screen. The problem there would be how would you fixate the “vertical screen” part, among other issues. But that’s a design problem for 2015 at the very least, not 2008 :).

    I didn’t say that it was difficult for Apple to do it. It is difficult to market it though. It’s a very different kind of a beast from current MBs, and people are always a bit conservative until you show them how darn useful the new thing is. I think that today it still is a bit over-the-top, not-that-useful, costly kind of a thing. If I was an Apple engineer I wouldn’t go that direction as soon as next month. But then, if I was an Apple engineer I would see first hand how great such stuff really is, and it could change my mind about it :).

  • solipsism

    “I find myself wanting to do “iPhone things” all the time at my puter.”

    Since I always have my iPhone on me when using a Mac I find myself already using both together. the iPhone is much simpler and faster device for doing certain tasks.

    Examples:doing a quick calculation, reading a calendar entry, finding a name in AddressBook or using Box Office to find a movie or its RT rating.

  • dicklacara

    Nah! But I bought an Apple ][ in July 1978, Left my 16/12 year Job at IBM in Dec 1978 to open the 5th computer store in Silicon Valley– 7/10 of a mile from Apple HQ. We knew all the guys at Apple… and saw what they could do, what they like to do.

    Apple likes to be first, wow you with their products, and set the rules for everyone else to follow. Just when everyone else gets the message and are catching up, Apple does it to ’em all over again.

    Sometimes, Apple hits the jackpot with a real game changer or a new category… something, that when you see it, makes you say “Of course, that’s the way it is supposed to be!”

    The iPhone is the most recent jackpot/game changer.

    Computers, even Apple’s excellent offerings, are becoming pedestrian– a necessity that we tolerate, rather than a “gotta’ have” that we lust after.

    So, you look around and see where the technology state of the art is today, and try to figure out where it will be 2 years from now.

    Then you ask yourself: what products and capabilities would I like to have using that technology.

    If you are honest, and don’t cloud your judgement with reality, you can, likely, figure out a half-assed version of what Apple is working on.

    In fact, SJ/Apple prides itself in knowing what you want better then you do!

    So, again, you ask yourself what products/capabilities do I want 2 years from now (regardless of cost, practicality, or difficulty of acceptance by the market place).

    Those are the products that Apple will deliver today… and I will lust after them.

    Whoever said I wanted or needed:
    — a personal computer
    — a floppy disk
    — a hard disk
    — a graphic GUI and a mouse
    — an optical drive
    — a LAN
    — WiFi
    — an mp3 player
    — a smartphone

    Apple didn’t invent any of these things!

    But they did make their versions, that made you say: “Of course, that’s the way it is supposed to be!”

    And you lusted after them!

    And you bought them (at a premium price).

    And they delivered on their promises (mostly).

    Now, ask yourself: “What do I want in products & capabilities 2 years from now?”

    More likely than not, SJ/Apple will deliver that… today!



    Maybe you just coined a new verb: to iPhone something.

    I am going to iPhone a movie.

    He iPhoned her in his address book.

    iPhone me the results when you have them ready.

    She iPhoned the boys soccer site to get the game schedule.

    iPhone the driving directions to the BMW dealer.

    And, yeah… I iPhoned you last night, but you didn’t answer!

  • gus2000

    harrywolf wrote:
    “GewGaw? Read more Dickens, Hardy, maybe Conan Doyle, and the word wont be a stranger to you.”

    I Googled these guys but could not find their blogs anywhere.

  • solipsism

    LOL @ Gus2000

  • Silver_Surfer1931

    To All:
    I actually find all your comments very interesting. As a non-techie, you have provided insights that I could not have imagined even though they are speculations.

    You have provided point and counterpoint without attacking the strawman. This is what I like about this site. Well thought out arguments. Intellectual. Non-condecending. It really makes you think vice rehashing.

    As for you Daniel: keep up the good work.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    Very interesting article. I’m not 100% convinced yet, but you’ve laid out a pretty good argument.

    A couple of points I’m wondering about:

    – What happens with the physical trackpad button? Wouldn’t it be easy to accidentally tap something on the trackpad display when you mean to click instead?

    – How do you “start up” an app on the trackpad’s display? Do you “send” an app to the trackpad from a control within the app on the main display?

    – If you don’t have a mouse plugged in, and you’re using an app on the trackpad, how do you move the cursor?

    – What would a trackpad with its own display do to battery life? Would there be a way to turn the display off and use it as a regular trackpad to save power?

    The whole idea in general seems like it would involve a lot of looking up at the main display, down at the trackpad, back up at the main display, etc. I think people might find this more distracting than switching between the keyboard and the mouse.

    You don’t have to look directly down at the keyboard to type, because all you have to do is start out with your hands in the right position. You’d have to look down at a trackpad with a display, though, because the available controls would change and move depending on what app you were in. In addition, you wouldn’t be able to feel which button you wanted to press, in the way that you can feel your way around the keyboard without having to look directly at it.

    I’m not saying it’s not possible, or that it’s a bad idea or anything. I think I would just have to see something like this in person, with all the details of the implementation worked out, before I could render an opinion of it.

  • nat

    daGUY said:

    “- If you don’t have a mouse plugged in, and you’re using an app on the trackpad, how do you move the cursor?”

    Perhaps to activate and deactivate the MultiTouch display, there would be a little physical Home button that looked just like the iPhone/iPod touch Home button. It would likely be placed between the MultiTouch display and the physical keyboard, only having one main purpose:
    switch the little display from whatever it is doing back to normal “mouse mode.” You’d just hit the Home button with your thumb and the controls would fade to black in an instant, allowing you to mouse around and such. Then when you wanted to do something in the the MT display, like Daniel’s maps and Widgets, you could hit the Home button again, or there could be either an icon in the main display’s Dock, or Data-detectors could appear when mousing over something that works better with the MT display (again, a Map in Google, dials in GarageBand, etc.).

  • nat

    Ah, daGUY, I was thinking about a trackpad as the pointing device, but plugging in a mouse could either automatically turn off the MultiTouch display or you could use both at the same time, mousing around with the external mouse while doing things with the MultiTouch display. That’d be a nice little bonus feature, no really a selling point. :D

  • nat

    Meant to say “not really a selling point.”

  • dicklacara


    Barkus is willin’

  • stefn

    Daniel: “Nobody would want to type on a glass surface.”

    Thanks, Daniel, for all your feedback all the feedback. Here’s the only piece I have a problem with. I’m convinced that a glass surface keyboard is just the thing, given two factors: First, that a dual screen Mac allows for lots of other very cool functions and terrific mobility and, second, that a regular keyboard can be plugged in for heavy keyboard uses.

  • solipsism

    @ stefn,
    How do you define heavy? I use my notebook a solid 12 hours a day, if not more, on average. I’m almost constantly typing something on it, but I’m not willing to cart around or use an external keyboard and a glass surface would mean I’d have to look at the virtual keyboard instead of the screen and it wouldn’t be very comfortable for typing thousands upon thousands of characters a day.

    I find it so odd that we have one group here who thinks that a trackpad with true multi-touch capabilities and an optional unlimited visual feedback would make for an uncomfortable trackpad and be distracting, and then another group wanting to get rid of a physical keyboard altogether for an impractical virtual one. Even odder is that some are part of both groups.

  • Realtosh

    @ Luis Dias

    I agree with your first comment about the ergonomics and functionality drawbacks of the visual trackpad. Daniel’s ideas are interesting, but not quite on the mark.

    I’m intrigued by the multi-inputs that are capable with visual input. We have it on the iPhone. dicklacara talks about these diverse inputs n his dual screen. John Muir talked up the same diversity of inputs on his quite similar dual screen concept. The dual screen makes more sense to me than a visual track padding.

    LuisDias is right in that is seems unApple like. That the solution doesn’t seem elegant. Its’ disharmony is more reminiscent of Windows than anything that would come from Apple.

    I like its’ outside the box thinking. But if one stands back and considers whether it is an elegant solution. The answer is most certainly not so elegant. I desired an iPhone input mechanism, ever since the iPhones were first announced. I was even disappointed when Apple delivered the new MacBook Pros with multi-touch trackpads. I considered it a design compromise. I wanted something more iPhone-like, almost what Dan describes to us today. Then I actually bought the MacBook Pro. I writing this comment on it right now.
    It works great. I’m not at all disappointed in the trackpad in the least. In fact, when one uses the track pad, one is looking at the screen. Adding visual stimuli to the trackpad, will actually make the interface and therefore the whole experience more confusing.

    But the idea of being able to alter the entire input surface, including keyboard allows for all kinds of inputs, not just just qwerty kb inputs. That part seems more exciting than the actual visual trackpad which seems more confusing to the interface. Dan has made his opinion clear that he stands against the ideas of John Muir and dicklacara of the dual screened laptop. I can the value of that dual device more than the visual trackpad. The visual trackpad doesn’t seem practical and elegant. Which screen are you controlling, etc.

    If you combine both screens and put them together into just one screen and make the device with a hinge or second half, then the whole visual input interface make more sense. Not only do you get all those crazy diverse inputs that dicklacara and John Muir have gotten us excited about, but the visual input and the visual display would be in unity, just like on the iPhone.

    the unity of the visual fields make much sense and works so well on the iPhone. Why do so many want to pull apart the beauty of the visual interface of the iPhone and force fir into yesterday’s form factors.

    If you all are going to reinvent the entire interface, and inputs; then why not be open to reinventing the form factor.

    I can see single screen devices without kb and trackpad as well as dual screen devices also with the kb and trackpad.

    If you’re going to reinvent the interface and input, you can use it with just one unified screen, which not only makes more sense as a whole product, but could also be a practical place to start. The dual screener could be added later on as a premium laptop. Hopefully the component costs will have come down a bit in the meantime.

    For most people a glorified iPhone-like tablet would be all the laptop they would need.

    The mini MacBook (slate) would be all the laptop most people would need. It’s smaller size would allow for an inexpensive yet profitable futuristic device. It could be put out at a price point under $1,000 that would create yet another mobile market for Apple between the iPhone and the laptops. The product would be sufficiently differentiated from the regular laptops so as not to kill those outright just yet. Those folks are really want physical keyboards or whatever else the full size laptops have would pay more for those.

    Everyone else can get the Apple slate and further erode the under $1,000 Windows laptop market without killing Apple’s profitable laptop business.

    The technology is there to deliver any of these ideas that have been mentioned. Whether you’re talking about my slate or Dan’s visual trackpad, or John Muir’s or dicklacara’s dual screener, the technology already exists and Apple could put any of them together today, if they don’t all already live in Apple’s labs.

    That they can exist is no reason for them to be marketed. Steve Jobs says himself that the projects that Apple doesn’t do are more important than the one they chose to market.

    Just because it is technically possible is no reason to make it. Note the extra screen Microsoft tried to add to the outside of laptops or a quick email check. Just added expense and complexity for a solution that was not elegant. It would make more sense to buy an iPhone and check email there.

    The same way, consider whether the visual trackpad is elegant enough to be a simple Apple solution. My gut is that it doesn’t quite match up. It’s sexy, but the ergonomics aren’t there, so it would likely not be an Apple solution.

  • dicklacara



  • designguy

    @ Realtosh

    I am with you on the slate product completely. After everyone’s input, in addition to common knowledge, it is the simplest product for Apple to sell.
    It would not compete with those that truly need a laptop, nor the iPhone.
    Too bad that we will not get it this year.

    @ Everyone

    Let us see what everyone thinks about this…

    How far will Apple drop the iPod Touch price point the Sept. 9 event….

    At $155 to produce there is some room to drop from the $299.


    This would cause some decreases to their profit margins. LOL
    Keep in mind that Apple wants to put their iPod Touch in everyone’s hands not holding the iPhone. :)
    This would help the App Store, and acceptance of Apple’s platform in the face of Android.

    I wonder if this price drop, in combination with dropping the iPod Classic will be the mystery transition.

    Will iPod Touch become, THE “iPod?”

    Critique Please……

    Might open up a naming category for the “Touch.” Perhaps the slate can become the Touch, or Touch Pro….?


  • nat

    @ designguy,

    Yeah, on the naming scheme changes following the classic’s discontinuation, the iPod touch should become the new iPod, the iPod nano will remain largely the same and keep its name, as will the shuffle. That’s a nice and simple product line: iPhone, iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle.

    Another thing worth adding to the touch: the same camera used in the iPhone. By using the same camera, Apple avoids making the iPod touch more enticing than the iPhone. It’d allow for casual picture taking (and perhaps video capturing if Apple decides to open up that functionality), cost next to nothing to include, and give the iPod another feature most competing mp3 players lack.

    Mainly though, a camera could serve as a barcode scanner, turning the iPod touch in a low-cost, slick, near feature complete point-of-service device that Apple could couple with a credit card swipe reader (it would clip onto the bottom, interfacing with the dock connector, rather than having to build a whole new device) and use in their retail stores. These would replace their slow and clunky WinMobile-based point-of-service handhelds, which added to the troubles Apple faced on the iPhone 3G’s launch day. They’d just need to write a simple checkout app using the iPhone/iPod touch SDK and presto, a new, much more capable and elegant PoS device. Then Apple could sell iPod touches bundled with these credit card readers and a basic checkout app to other retail stores, jumping into yet another enterprise and putting mobile OS X in front of hundreds (or thousands) of employees. :D

  • JamesK

    “Will iPod Touch become, THE “iPod?””

    I’m highly convinced that it will, at least eventually. The iPod Touch is not primarily an iPod. And the iPhone is not primarily a Phone, it’s merely coincidentally a phone. Both of these devices are really pocket Macintoshes.

    And that is the future of the personal computer.

  • solipsism

    At least no one here is predicting a 64GB Touch.

    I don’t see how the Classic can go away anytime soon. The capacity is enough for those they want to store all )or most) of their iTunes library on it, it has a clickwheel and it’s not meant to do a million other things. It’s just the perfect device for a certain segment of the market, it takes little for Apple to keep it up, and it would throw these people to competing players if they did get rid if it right now. I don’t see the Classic going away until the Touch can hold at least 128GB.

  • JamesK

    “At least no one here is predicting a 64GB Touch.”

    It wouldn’t surprise me. Actually, what wouldn’t surprise me is the possibility of a disk-based iPod Touch. With GPS.

  • Realtosh

    @ designguy

    Yup. I’m not certain we’ll get a slate anytime soon. My guess would be Jan Macworld at the earliest, but this whole margin warning makes me wonder. What I am sure of is that we would get an inexpensive Internet computing device BEFORE we get visual trackpad or a two screener.

    I agree that Apple needs to solidify their iPhone iPod Touch OS X platform, before that extend and branch that platform with another device at another size and resolution. But the logical conclusion to everyone’s discussion here would be such a device. So who knows; it may come early than I expect.

    $155 component cost for the touch will be closer to $200 by the time you add packaging, included accessories, shipping, distribution, marketing and software development. Unless the price is above that $200 figure, there would be a contribution to overhead, but not much of a profit margin at all, beyond overhead. That would be a difficult sell, even to expand the platform. Apple would practically be giving them away at cost. At $249, you might be able to make it work, especially if they’re trying aggressively to sell them, in order to build a critical mass for the platform. Not my prediction, just a bit of analysis.

  • solipsism

    @ JamesK,
    How much would a 64GB Touch go for?

    I’ve heard the GPS thing, but I don’t think it’s possible. A-GPS would only work within WiFi range and GPS would take several minutes to find your location, but the hard part is having internal mapping software. The iPhone’s GPS pulls the maps from Google, they aren’t local. Without maps all you get is the coordinates.

  • Realtosh

    @ nat

    I’ve been saying this for nearly as long as the iPhone’s been announced. The iPhone/iPod touch is an amazing device to build upon for all types of enterprise and vertical market devices.

    I like your iPod lineup. Makes sense.

  • Realtosh

    @ solipsism

    There are two groups that are trying to take visual touch input interface and are trying to force fit it onto the traditional laptop.

    I proudly stand outside of both groups. I advocate putting the cool technology of both camps into a single device that is consistent with the unified visual interface, of which the iPhone is the best example.

    In that device and every device sold by Apple with visual touch, the visual touch interface is part of the main visual field, and not separated from it as both groups advocate.

    I have strongly supported this third way, which would keep the visual touch interface on the main screen, consistent with the iPhone or iPod touch. This unified interface would lead us to a slate-type form factor. The device would likely be somewhat smaller than a typical laptop. This would not only make the touch screen more affordable, but also quite portable. A smaller, more economic screen would allow the TouchBook to stay under the important under $1,000 price point. Being able to stay under that magic number would allow the TouchBook to compete with the cheaper Windows laptops without eroding the value proposition of the regular Apple laptops, which are still a major business for Apple.

    The iPhone and iPod touch platform will be able to accomplish much in both the consumer and business markets. There will be lots of applications and functions that will be developed for that platform.

    Even so, there seems to be a middle market between the iPhone platform and the Mac laptop platform. It is in this middle space that there is room for a number of interesting device that are all based on the same hardware platform. A slate-type device that can be a book reader, portable media consumption device (ie movie/ video player, portable game machine, extensible enterprise device, Internet tablet, flexible input device (keyboards for multiple language, DJ mixing pad, music, art & all kinds of inputs listed here by others, etc, etc, etc.)

    This device would extend the market for portable computing for uses for which the iPhone platform might be too small.

    The TouchBook is a really big iPod touch, that grown up a bit. It may even be compatible with Mac software, although its’ input would be more consistent with the touch interface on the iPhone.

    I don’t know when Apple will deliver a TouchBook. What I can deduce is that the market is there, and will eventually pull one from the fingers of a Cupertino task force at work at Apple.

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  • labrats5

    “Put your finger on an iPhone, and compare it to an existing trackpad. There’s less friction, not more. ”

    No idea what kind of trackpad you are using, or the state of your iphone, but unless we live in very different universes what you said is either a mistake or a flat out lie.

    I don’t even know how to argue you on this. Its obvious to anyone not blinded by dogma. If there is any moisture whatsoever on either you finger or the iphone there is a squeegee effect. I can’t even create a scenario where glass would be offer smoother finger movement than matte. Please don’t post lies.

  • solipsism

    Synaptic touchpads don’t work with wet fingers. Why does you have wet fingers when using a computer, anyway?

  • labrats5

    “Synaptic touchpads don’t work with wet fingers. Why does you have wet fingers when using a computer, anyway?”

    Did I ever say wet fingers? No, better question: have you ever used a computer where it is humid? Yes? No? Either way, seems pretty reasonable that someone somewhere uses a computer in a humid environment. Have you ever seen how moisture in the air sticks to glass like a magnet? Simple test: breathe on your window. Lots of moisture. Now breathe on your trackpad. Notice a difference? Probably not.

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  • LuisDias

    labrats5, why the need to vent? You can disagree freely here. And I do see your point, though I don’t think that’s the real party breaker. For me it’s the global unpleasant solution. It’s not worthy .

  • Realtosh

    How know’s when we’ll get the touch books?
    Remember that Apple has been stockpiling millions and millions of boxes that have been imported and labeled Internet computers. Some have been wondering if these were in the iPhone 3G. They may also be the TouchBook netbooks that so many are anticipating.

    As far as the iPod lineup announcement next week, and MacBook later on this month, Apple’s going to introduce solid state drives across the range. Apple going to buy a lot of solid state drives to bring down the price of the drives, especially for Apple. Apple’s gear is going to have a competitive advantage because Apple will be pushing solid state drives throughout their products.

    The use of solid state drives will increase battery life, speed up performance, and allow for nearly instant access to memory and data.

    The classic iPods may possibly be dropped for a high-capacity iPod touch. Apple has a winner in its iPhone/ iPod touch interface and will try to push as much of their sales product mix to devices that make use of the new touch interface. Doing so adds support to the App Store and the ecosystem that Apple is building for their new mobile platform.

    If we see any of the technologies mentioned by all the posters above, it would likely be in a TouchBook of some kind, although probably not next Tuesday. Next Tuesday will likely focus on iPods, but I am uncertain because, as I’ve said, Apple will try to transition as many of their iPods to the new mobile touch platform as they possibly can.

    My 2¢.

  • dicklacara


    Just thinking out loud here…

    What if Apple announced a MT product, slate or portable, that contained WiFi and radio chips that supported any/all of the major cell networks?

    This device would be a computer that could be “connected” by some means whether you are in the middle of a park, in an office complex (or commuting between them).

    It could be used to make/take phone calls, but that would not be its primary purpose.

    The iConnect would let you continue your activities (work or play) seamlessly as you move between the home, office, soccer game, etc.

    The iConnect would not be tied to any particular carrier, rather it could use any carrier(s).

    In fact, the iConnect could/should look around and see what carriers have the best signal/bandwidth when and where you need it (and seamlessly switch networks when appropriate).

    The carriers would need to rethink and creatively repackage their service plans:
    1) maybe a fixed fee for unlimited data plus n phone minutes.
    2) maybe minimal monthly fee for access, and then tiered charges based on actual usage

    Apple is the one company that is in a proven position of strength to pull this off!

    The carriers would be fighting to participate and would be compelled to offer competitive price/performance plans.


  • designguy

    @ dicklacara

    Sorry, not enough time but here you go.

    Different 3G and corresponding antenna technologies. That is why even a hacked iPhone 3G can not get on Verizon’s 3G network.

    I have not read up on the 4G though. Anybody know if that is a worldwide standard or will it be the same problem of different techs?

    Otherwise dicklacara, you have explained what we all expect from Apple withe the iSlate or MacTouch. A seamless connection, like the iPhone, but maybe minus the connection issues… :)

    By the way, carriers already offer “unlimited data” plans. LOL

    Good thinking outside the box though. I recall an older Apple patent along those lines, a phone that could access all the GSM networks and pick the cheapest.
    Sound familiar to anyone?



  • Realtosh

    @ dicklacara


    Seems like Apple is tied to ATT and their overwhelmed network for the time being. Plus, Verizon hasn’t sounded too excited about offering Apple products; although that’s likely just been due to sour grapes from ATT having the iPhone exclusive. I think that Verizon has now had plenty of time to see the lines at the Apple and ATT stores, and starting Monday Best Buy stores as well. When the ATT exclusive ends, Verizon will probably be first in line to get Apple product.

    There are technical issues as well. Verizon is building out an impressive EVDO network, which is a CDMA broadband network. Up until now, Apple has delivered phones that are compatible with GSM technologies (GSM/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA). To ship a Verizon capable phone would require adding phone that work only with the competing CDMA technologies or phones that can handle both CDMA & GSM technologies in the same device for maximum roaming options. Having so many different radio technologies to support would also have battery implications as well as the increased component and support cost from the additional complexity. The advantage of an omni-capable phone is that one would never be limited by the capabilities of a single carrier’s single network. By the time Verizon can join all the others in the playground’s Apple sandbox, ATT will have built out their network to provide more capacity and better reception. The quality of ATT’s network, or rather its’ present shortcomings, will be less of an issue then it is now. The benefit of supporting both 3G technology families would mean much better roaming options worldwide.

    But adding Verizon support bring up these questions that add complexity to the Apple experience. Does everyone have the extra capability, and its’ extra cost and extra battery drain? If not, then Apple phones will have inconsistent capabilities and inconsistent network support throughout the world, since he two technology families are not compatible. The networks will continue to be incompatible until a unified 4G technology is created to replace both of the current incompatible cell tech families. Then Apple, and everyone else, will be able to support all 4G networks, which would ideally replace both EVDO and HSDPA broadband networks, that are only still now being built out throughout the world.

    I would not be surprised if Apple takes over the customer experience, and markets the cell service directly to it’s end customers, buying the network coverage wholesale from the various carriers. That is probably the reason for the patents in the first place, not to add so much extra complexity to the end user; having to chose the best quality connection or the cheapest rate. Apple’s technology would do all that automatically, and market the service as one package with unlimited service on whichever is the best network, almost invisibly to the end user.

    Apple wouldn’t make their customers have to figure out which is the best cell coverage and best rate cost on a block by block and town by town basis. Apple would want to deliver a better experience.

    Many analysts believe that cell phone network access will become a commodity utility. Cell carriers would be providers of the pipe like today’s electricity, gas, and water utilities and Internet ISPs. Others would provide services on top of that utility service. Yahoo, Google, travelocity.com, contintenal.com, are examples of such services coming from differing directions and working at different layers within a vertical.

    Apple would be well positioned to succeed in a changing marketplace.

  • designguy

    @ Realtosh

    Excellent information my friend!

  • dicklacara


    I agree that Apple is tied to ATT for the iPhone & that built-in battery, size & power considerations preclude using multiple carriers.

    However, what I am suggesting is not an iPhone, rather a mobile slate MT computer. Assumably it would be at least 3×5 inches, likely larger.

    It would use cell, WiFi , whatever is available.

    As a new product [category] it need not be tied to any specific carrier.

    It is not a cell phone!

    The fact that it can make/receive phone calls is incidental– it is a gp computer that can connect to the internet (and remain connected) anywhere.

    The fact that the carriers are not set up to deliver a data-only or data+phone service is also incidental– if we build it they will come.

    If the carriers are not prescient enough to realize the potential, Apple could provide the service themselves by contracting access to multiple carriers’ networks.

  • Realtosh


    You’ve got a great tech history, and you’ve said some really intelligent things.

    But why is it so important to you on insisting that a portable slate with a cellular radio built-in is not a cell phone? That the device looks different from typical handheld cell phones is not material.

    What matters is the contract that Apple signed with ATT. Does it cover all cell products manufactured by Apple or just the iPhone. It seems that there may have be some ambiguity with the original iPhone contract, but Apple and ATT renegotiated the deal before the iPhone 3G, extendeding the term of their agreement. I get the feeling that ATT made a point to clarify exactly what devices are or are not covered in their agreement with Apple. In exchange for the substantial subsidies on the iPhone 3G, I would imagine that ATT would want some assurance that they wouldn’t get surprised by Apple cellular products on competing networks during the extended term of their agreement; especially after some public Apple comments that the original agreement may have only applied to the original iPhone.

    The carriers are setup to deliver voice-only, data-only, and/or data + voice. Voice-only is any simple feature phone. Data-only is any expresscard laptop cellular data card. iPhone is the best example of voice+data.

    But any device of any shape or size can accommodate any of the three combinations of cellular service. ATT offers all of these cellular services combinations, as does any other major cellular carrier. To the carriers, these are all cellular receivers that they market in order to sell their cellular network services.

    I don’t know the particulars of the ATT-Apple agreement. But since Apple was hinting at wiggle room, it would seem reasonable that ATT would want some certainty in exchange for all those iPhone 3G subsidies, that are so sizable as to affect their short-term cash flow and quarterly earnings reports.

    In reality it doesn’t matter, if Apple is stuck with ATT for another year or so or not. If Apple has agreed to stick with ATT, then they can debut whatever product on ATT. The multi-network functions would work in all the territories where their agreements are not exclusive. In the few countries that are still under exclusive contract, such as the US with ATT, then the network options would be restricted to just the exclusive network until such time as the exclusivity expires. After the exclusive contract ends, then Apple is free to add whatever other networks it wishes. My guess is that all cellular networks will offer Apple phones and other devices. As such, when such time as Apple offers Apple-branded cellular service that makes use of the patent mentioned in the above posts, then all cellular networks could potentially work with Apple’s cellular product(s). If the content of Apple’s patent filing are correct, than Apple’s system would automatically favor those networks that offer the best service and that have negotiated the best rates for Apple’s customers.

    It will be interesting to see how the cellular industry evolves over the years.

  • Realtosh

    One more thing. Another use of the multi-network capabilities would be to manage roaming internationally.

    The multi-network phone would use ATT in the US, and a local network when traveling abroad. At no time would Apple customers have to pay roaming rates. Apple customers would always use local cellular networks, and pay local cellular rates. The customer would be able to choose either monthly rates or prepaid service.

    Another alternative would be the Apple-branded service that we’ve discussed. In each country, Apple would offer a local rate, instead of roaming rates. Since Apple would negotiate wholesale rates within each territory, then Apple could pass on local rates worldwide instead of charging roaming rates. In essence, Apple would be able to market the first worldwide cellular service, where the whole world was included as part of the Apple WorldPlan. This new world roam-free cellular marketing would echo the National Plans that carriers started offering in the United States some years ago, that in essence did away with roaming within the United States for any US subscriber.

    I’m shocked that similar no-roaming plans have not been marketed and more widely used in the Common European Market, especially by the larger multi-country carriers. For these large carriers, roaming out of country would often be on a commonly owned subsidiary of the same cellular pone group. I don’t understand why these carriers don’t make more of any effort to eliminate roaming, at least within their own carrier networks, domestically and abroad. It seems like a great marketing tactic to grab a disproportionate amount of traveling power-users.

    We’re destined to get some game-changing moves in the cellular industry over the next few years. Bring it on.

  • dicklacara


    The reasons to classify it other than cell phone:

    1) the ability to have;
    –Internet access to data
    –compute power (full OS X capability)
    is more important than making/taking phone calls.

    This positioning removes many of the size/weight limitations of a cell phone.

    If the slate? were 6×9 inches (or larger) it is unlikely you would hold it to your ear for phone calls– rather use a BT headset. A 3×5 inch device could, likely, replace a cell phone.

    2) the second reason is as you’ve anticipated– I suspect that Apple could offer such a device independent of their existing exclusive iPhone agreements with carriers: ATT, VodaPhone, etc.

    3) The new device would be SIMless or have a SIM tied to the device not the carrier.

    Your concept of a world-wide roaming-free network is a natural. Lot’s of advantages for personal and, especially, business use:
    — 1 stop shopping for all your network access needs
    — same for support
    — reduced costs
    — ability to predict (budget) and control costs
    — eliminate hassle of carrying/switching/losing multiple SIM cards
    — aforementioned ability to move seamlessly (or is that SIMlessly) between multiple carriers without interruption.

    The ability to budget network costs, alone, makes this a winner for businesses!