[Not an actually Apple tablet. But even the mock-up looks dead sexy.]
The long-rumored Apple tablet device has taken on near-mythical proportions — somewhere between the Holy Grail and the first transistor radio. No one knows what it is, exactly. Or even why it is. But we do know it’ll have the Steve Jobs seal of approval, and will therefore electrify the masses — at least those with deep enough pockets to afford one.
Even if Apple didn’t come up with the concept (which they didn’t), I’m interested in the idea of a tablet.
Firstly, I really want an e-book reader, but the Kindle just doesn’t do it for me. It’s like the pre-iPod portable MP3 players, which lacked the sexiness and functionality that helped make over-compressed audio files the digital-era standard. If Apple unleashes a tablet with a digital book service attached, I’d dive in headfirst. Say what you will about the Cupertino crew, they know how to design attractive, intuitive hardware. There’s no reason to expect that the iSlate — the rumored name for Apple’s tablet — will be any different. Amazon should be scared shitless. Or ready to make deals.
Another reason I’m into the tablet idea is because I think netbooks are dumb. I use my iPhone more for web surfing than I do making calls or texting, but (AT&T willing) those features are there if I want ’em. Netbooks, on the other hand, are just glorified browser interfaces. An Apple tablet could be a kickass multimedia entertainment platform with enough practical extras (maps, calendars, email, word processing, video, IM, apps, etc.) to get you through most situations where you’d need a laptop. And if it’s synced “in-the-cloud,” you’ll never be lacking data from your other devices — desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc. Take that, netbook.
I’ve also long advocated for ways that the content industry could add value to their product to entice users to pay for stuff. Right now, there appears to be a trend — driven by Big Media honchos like Rupert Murdoch — to lock content behind pay walls, without innovating on any conceivable level. The music industry, for example, could benefit greatly from a sexy tablet device. I’ve written before about how a tablet could help bring back album art and even take the idea of the LP into the digital age through a variety of dynamic extras. These could be periodically refreshed as a way to get customers to return to the source, rather than scouring P2P nets. And, if it’s done right, “ownership” may not even need to be a part of the picture. Apple’s recent acquisition of digital music service Lala could mean the company is poised to enter the subscription access game. As with all things Apple, they will likely be credited with inventing it. Which is ridiculous. Still, if they do it well, I won’t complain — I’ll just fork over monthly cash to swim in a sea of gorgeously-delivered content that I can access on all of my Apple devices.
You can also see how a tablet could be manna for the struggling magazine industry. A well-fashioned device could help bring back the tactile aspect of leafing through a periodical, and advertisers might be more inclined to pay for premium spots on a specialty digital platform. I’d love to flip through the latest issue of Foreign Policy or Varmint Monthly on a device that doesn’t strain my eyes or bombard me with a bunch of invasive blinking banners. Hell, I’d even pay for it! That way, advertisers could get back to what they do best — designing obtuse spreads to impress themselves.
Then there’s movies and TV shows, LOL cats and porn. Everything that people want, delivered on a device with a far more sophisticated touch screen than the iPhone and with the sleek and seductive aesthetic Apple is known for.
So what’s the deal? Does anyone have real specs? When can we expect Moses to bring it down from the mountain? Will it be as awesome as that drool-worthy tablet in Avatar?
The New York Times‘ Bits Blog has a decent summary of the device’s supposed functionality. But if you really want to grok the rumors, you can’t rely on “old media” like the Grey Lady. This Gizmodo report offers a breakdown of all the latest speculation about Apple’s tablet, including whether it’s really gonna be called the iSlate, and if a late-January announcement is in the cards. Other questions are addressed, too: will it be 10″ or 7″? Can it make calls? Can it make breakfast? Will I have to sell a kidney to afford it?
Right now, it’s anybody’s everybody’s guess.