Mad Money Machine

by Paul Douglas Boyer

Time To Talk Tablet: iTablet, iSlate, iBook, iPad

Take your pick of names but we are all awaiting the next holy product to be announced from Apple. After “The Jesus Phone” which had people literally weeping in their seats upon its unveiling, the Apple Table is set to be the next  revolutionary gadget that we didn’t realize we couldn’t live without. Apple iPad?

I have a small window of time before the official announcement is made before which I can make my own predictions, wish lists, and observations about the new miracle device. Apple is expected to announce it on January 27th at a media event. I guess there is not enough time for them to get all my wish list items incorporated into the thing, but at least they will have my wish list for their 2nd generation of it by 2011.

First, my preferred name for the thing is the Apple iPad. I like the way it rhymes with iPod and it is alliterative with iPhone as well. iSlate is my 2nd choice just because it sounds cool. iBook would be my 3rd choice as it would fit into the MacBook line nicely, but iBook places too much emphasis on this thing being just an eReader and not enough on the other things I want it to do. Read on. iTablet? Sounds like something Dell would call it.

Form factor. The iPad will have the 10” screen everyone is expecting and will basically be a “Honey I Blew Up the iPhone” looking thing. A home button at the bottom and that’s all you see physically. Aluminum back, buttons and holes along the edges. Nice places to put your fingers as you hold it in portrait or landscape orientation.

Buttons and holes will include those found on the iPhone: Headphone/microphone jack, volume buttons, mute switch, sleep button. But it will also include USB. The BIG question is will it include a power hole or a iPod dock hole? You see, it makes a difference in deciding if the iPad will SYNC with a computer or will BE a computer. Will your iTunes library still be on your MacBook and you have to sync it with the iPad, or will the iPad have enough storage to hold all your music by itself? My guess: it will BE a computer and can run iTunes on its own. It could still share music with your MacBook with that family sharing  route and it could share photos and files and so forth. So my money is on it having a nice magnetic power adapter with all kinds of neat accessories we can buy like a car charger and external battery. PLEASE let me use the same magnetic adapter as my MacBook. My guess: they won’t! (They make TONS of money on those things!) And make some kind of adapter that lets me plug it into all my various iPod connectors in the car and external speakers.

The USB adapter will allow commonly needed connections like cameras, flips, and, wait for it… iPhones! And yes, i want to be able to charge my iPhone from the battery of my iPad. You won’t need USB for the external keyboard and mouse because those will connect via BlueTooth. And while you are typing and mousing on your iPad, you will need it to somehow stand up, won’t you? So I’m wondering if this thing will have some sort of picture-frame-like stand on its back that lets you sit it on a desk or table either in portrait or landscape orientation.

I keep harping on orientation. For me this is key to the iPad: being able to read books and long pdfs on it in portrait mode. Already it is more useful than a MacBook for that reason alone. I find reading books in landscape to be too small a window into the text. I don’t know how many others are like me, but the first thing I do on a new computer is move all of those dock or taskbar things from the bottom of the screen over to the left side. That gives me a little more reading room on my MacBook. And I try to trim menu bars and status bars away as well. With the iPad in portrait mode I will be in reading heaven even on a smaller 10” screen.

How will this thing get on the Internet is a key question. Of course it will have Wi-Fi. But will it be on the 3G and EDGE networks as well? Will I have to buy more service from ATT Wireless? Will it tether through my iPhone? Will the iPad BE a phone? My hopes are that it will BE a phone that uses the same phone number as my iPhone, that I can talk on either one, that I can switch between one and the other during a call, that I can surf the net on the iPad while talking on the iPhone, that it can let me make and receive calls with my BlueTooth headset, and that it can act perfectly well as a desktop speakerphone. Not too much to ask, right? If iPhone was the “Jesus Phone” then what would this iPad be, the “GOD” phone?

But my guess of what will actually happen is more limited. I think for this first release it will have Wi-Fi and 3G and EDGE DATA networking only. You will have to add some sort of appendage to your ATT Wireless iPhone plan to get remote internet on the thing. No calls, talking is for iPhones and that is the way we say it will be, says Apple. Maybe in a later release they can figure out if it makes sense to add a phone or not. Perhaps too many people will end up using the data plan to make Skype calls and they will come around.

What about software? Is the iPad a small MacBook or a big iPhone? Wow, this is a tougher one to call. I can make a good case for both. You want to be able to run iWork on the thing, right? But yet Apple wants you to buy 10 billion apps for the thing too. So like a flash it hits me: it runs MacOS but with an iPhone mode so you can do BOTH. But the iPhone OS is all about limiting what you can do. Will Apple want to limit what you can do in the iPad? If so, it will be more like an iPhone with some iWork apps available for download. Actually in that case they will probably throw in some iWork apps for free but you gotta buy all the other cool stuff.

How will you use this thing if you already have a MacBook and an iPhone like I do? You will have your iPhone in your pocket, your MacBook on your desk, and your iPad in your hands. On the couch, in a seat, or in bed. This is the “media comes to me” device. Read a book? Sure, the iPhone already has the Kindle app from Amazon so you can buy thousands of books for $9.99 and start reading. Knowing Apple, they will probably start selling books through the iTunes store. Don’t wanna miss a market, right? But I better be able to get pdfs onto this thing easily and freely or it goes in the trash.

You will also of course watch movies, listen to music, surf the net, and make blog postings. Standard fare. It is the book reading thing that makes the iPad so special. And of course it will be the first successful touch screen computer from Apple. The iPhone set the stage, but now we will have pinch and zoom super-sized. We’ll be using our arms more to see those details from the satellite view. Ah yes, GPS. Big maps finally. Would this thing be appropriate on the dashboard? Not unless it has a camera that can show what is in FRONT of the car! And speaking of cameras, it needs at least two: One on back like normal on the iPhone for taking vids of others and one on front for taking vid of you. Maybe one on the side just to be sly. And I’d really love it if the one on the front is actually UNDER the center of the screen, invisible to us but fully able to see us nonetheless. That way on video calls people will be looking AT YOU instead of somewhere off into space.

Finally, the dreaded question: How much will they want for this thing? Remember when the Jesus Phone first came out how much they charged? Same deal here, waayy more than what we want to pay. They will really put it to those early-adopter guys, hahaha! I expect that early price to be $899. Gasp! With netbooks retailing for $399! Yep, but it will drop after a few months to $699 and everybody will be like, “Whew, now I can afford one at last.”

So prepare for the iPad invasion. Prepare for the weeping, shaking bodies to behold not the iTablet being brought down from the mountain but the iPad being unveiled on Steve’s stage. I can’t wait.

Tue, January 12 2010 » Blog, Fun, Predictions, Reviews