Friday, January 8, 2010

Some Guesses on the Apple Tablet

This really has nothing to do with our MBA program, but everyone in our class knows that I was an Apple fanboy and spend a reasonable amount of time exploring how their latest strategy was changing various markets (music, communication, mobile computing, application distribution, etc.).

In talking to a colleague at work today, we made some predictions on what might get announced if an Apple tablet does hit the market early this year (rumors of announcements at the end of January). I thought it would be interesting to list some of these for comparison at a later time.
  1. I have a hard time believing that Apple would create a purpose built device (like a Kindle). I suspect they are trying to find the sweetspot between an iPhone and a MacBook. Mac OS / Phone OS has too much R&D to not reuse as much as possible. So a form-factor that is similar to a netbook (8-10"), but multi-purpose.
  2. The device will be more like an iPhone than a netbook in form factor. No need for keyboards, flip tops, hinges, etc. Everything will be wireless (Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G, similar to the Kindle).
  3. It will have two modes. The first (mobility) will be like a big iPhone, where you can sit it on your lap and type directly on the screen. All movement will be via gestures, or voice-recognition or the touchscreen. The second mode will include a docking station, which sits the device at a 45* or 60* angle for viewing, and the virtual keyboard and mouse-pad will be projected onto a flat surface (desk, table, floor, coffee-shop, etc.). All the multi-touch gestures will work on the virtual mouse-pad.
  4. By default it will come with an incredible eReader application (iRead). Beyond the Kindle-like features of great display and easy download, it will make reading a social activity by allowing people to easily discuss sections of a reading with communities of friends and like-minded people. Highlight a passage and see if other people have commented on it, asked questions about it, referenced it in other forums (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  5. It will allow you to easily do all the things you can do with paper-based reading material today: Highlight passages, added notes and doodles (via text, voice-recognition, finger-gestures), earmark pages, etc.
  6. The future of education could be significantly changed by the social aspects of iRead, as the discussion of topics could be happening at almost anytime, with the full class or a subset. Teachers could introduce dynamic quizes &/or checkpoints into the readings to validate comprehension, discouraging a student from proceeding if they haven't grasped a basic concept before moving to an advanced topics.
  7. Through iTunes, it will introduce a self-publishing service for authors. Instead of having to use a publisher and pay for their overhead, it will offer a service to allow people to create professional quality content and distribute it through major channels. People already know how to do self-promotion today (blogs, Twitter, Facebook Fan pages, YouTube, etc.), but they may not have access to editors, graphic artists, speakers for audiobooks, etc. By offering an ala carte menu of services to authors, Apple could radically change the value chain for the publishing landscape, cutting out layers between the author and reader.
  8. By leveraging their existing customer knowledge from iTunes, and now location-based information (mobile device), combined with their recent acquisition of Quattro Wireless, Apple could potentially offer Apple tablet specific content to readers from sources like The New Yorker, The Economist, or other outlets committed to great journalism, not just chasing eyeballs. Revenue splits between Apple and the journalists could fund this.
  9. The tablet will have unique peer-2-peer networking capabilities to share gaming experiences with 6-8 other tablets within close proximity. New games will get written that provide shared experiences.
  10. One of the complaints about the iPhone is the lack of peer-2-peer video, similar to iChat or Skype. The Apple tablet will resolve this, as well as being a great form factor to watch TV/Videos on the train or bus.
Since everyone feels the need to give the new device a name, I'll throw my hat in the ring. Let's go with iBook, combining the concept of a netbook size with the incredible new reading experience and social aspects for consuming content.
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