Apple’s rumored tablet Mac will probably be very cool and very useful

I recently had the opportunity to configure a client’s ModBook - this is a conversion kit for a MacBook that makes it a tablet (pen-based tablet Mac). It was cool, but not terribly easy-to-use for day-to-day stuff. It’d be superb for artists using Painter or AutoDesk’s SketchBook (the latter comes with the ModBook), but impractical for anything text input heavy. The ModBook does have handwriting recognition….but since I didn’t invest time in training the software….it failed to convert my handwriting very well.

Apple’s iPhone lays the groundwork

If there’s one thing that Apple does well, it’s building user-friendly interfaces that seem polished, refined, and simple to use. The iPhone was remarkable ñ even years later others are still playing catch-up. The iPhone was rumored for a very long time - and “analysts” kept predicting doom and gloom each quarter that passed that “Apple missed the boat and didn’t ship their cell phone.” Funny thing is, when it did ship, it caused a paradigm shift in the mobile phone market. It was so well done that anyone could pick it up and start using it. And it had no keyboard. Instead, it used touch screen technology. It’s multi-gestural control made it simple to use.

After I got mine, I kept discovering marvelous gems with the interface. It’s like someone had actually spent the time using it and worrying about how it’d be used. Instead of the standard, “add some bells and whistles, and get it shipping,” Apple spent time to perfect it before it shipped. Sure, the first incarnation lacked some things…and even today you’ll find detractors that rant about what the iPhone doesn’t have….but what they don’t understand is that even the first incarnation, with it’s limited features, did one thing absolutely right. It worked. It worked simply. And it was intuitive. That’s what was so remarkable. Apple not only made a touch screen cell phone (sans keyboard) but it made it ridiculously easy-to-use. Apple did what it does best; elegant clean design of the hardware and the software.

Apple will get the tablet Mac right!

So now we all await the next “big product” from Apple. The much-anticipated Apple Tablet Mac. Analysts are again deriding Apple each time a quarter comes and goes and no tablet Mac emerges. Prognosticators are predicting it will fail and be a “niche” product line ñ oddly overlooking how the iPhone changed the cell phone industry overnight and catapulted Smart Phones into wide general use.

Well I predict that Apple will create magic again with the iTablet or iSlate or whatever it’s called.  But it won’t ship it before it’s ready. And that’s the secret. Apple has exceedingly high standards when it comes to product design. Their products are attractive, easy-to-use, and truly useful. And I believe the same will hold true for the eventual tablet Mac too.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I recently used a ModBook. And it was cool, but not terribly useful. In fact, if given the choice, I’d use my iPhone before using the Modbook. But what the Modbook had….was a 13” MacBook screen size. But it’s a tad chunky and heavy too. So if the rumors of a 10” screen on the Apple tablet are correct - it’ll be a perfect size. It’ll allow you to read books or magazines on it easily (which is a tad difficult to do on an iPhone) but it’ll be smaller and lighter than a laptop. It’ll probably also have Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity built-in which will make it nice to use. Add in more robust touch controls and it will again probably be revolutionary. Like I said, the iPhone does a good job, it’s just a bit small. Upsize it a bit, give it a little bit more power and drop a full-blown OS onto it so I can run regular desktop applications and possibly iPhone apps…and it’ll be truly terrific. Oh wait, that sounds like what the tablet Mac will be, doesn’t it?

Now keep refining this magical device until all the kinks are worked out. Even if this means, as in the first generation of the iPhone, some features are left out until they’re polished, deliver an innovative, touch-controlled tablet computer…and I think everyone will want one. Hmmm, sounds like a plan…an Apple plan. I, for one, eagerly await the announcement. And while I’m not one to sleep outside an Apple store the night before launch….I will get one ASAP, no doubt.

Dec 26, 2009

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