Apple tablet predictions

I thought I'd indulge in a little punditry regarding the rumored Apple tablet device, expected to be announced at the Apple event next Wednesday. This is just based on rumors I've read and my own thoughts; I don't have any inside knowledge.

  • Name: I think that "iTablet" is probably the most likely name, though I'd prefer simply "Tablet". "iSlate" is a popular idea, which could also work. I also like Cabel Sasser's idea of "Canvas". I doubt it'd be called "iPad" as some have suggested, as that is too close to "iPod" and would cause confusion.
  • Form factor: I would expect a rectangular slab with slightly rounded corners, much like the iPhone. It would likely have a aluminum unibody back, to provide rigidity for the screen.
  • Screen: The rumors seem pretty set on a 10" color touch-screen display, and that seems entirely reasonable. That would be a good size for watching media, reading books, browsing websites, and other activities. I would expect it to be much the same as the iPhone's, with a glass front, though that'd add quite a lot fo weight. I wouldn't want to them compromise on a plastic screen, though.
  • Buttons: I'd expect it to have just a Home button like the iPhone, and probably a volume control and power button on the sides, again like the iPhone.
  • Connectors: A recent rumor is that the tablet will have two dock connectors (one one a short edge and one on a long edge). This makes sense, so you can dock it in either orientation. I wouldn't be surprised if it came with a more substantial dock than iPhones, to prop it up at a comfortable angle for watching movies etc, and provide support for using the device while docked. I wouldn't expect any other connectors.
  • Connectivity: It'll definitely have wi-fi, and almost certainly Bluetooth connectivity. I would like an optional 3G connection as well — one device model that can be used with or without a 3G contract. I would see the tablet as most useful around the house, so I wouldn't want a mandatory 3G contract, but I can see that some people (e.g. real estate agents) would benefit from a 3G connection.
  • Sensors: The device will definitely include an accelerometer for rotation, and may include other sensors. Probably not the proximity sensor, though, since people won't be bringing the tablet to their face!
  • Camera: I would expect a front-facing camera for chatting. Probably a higher resolution than the existing one in iPhones.
  • Keyboard: It will have a software-based keyboard. A 10" screen wouldn't fit a full-sized keyboard, but it'd be bigger than the iPhone's, so could be typed on with 10 fingers if you're so inclined. Having originally learnt to type on a ZX81 membrane keyboard that would be about the same size as the tablet's I know it's entirely possible to type just fine on such a size (and a smooth surface). One thing I'd like would be for the keyboard to be scaleable: pinch it to resize the keyboard to expose more or less of the app window. It'd also be nice if they supported a Bluetooth-connected keyboard (and hid the on-screen keyboard in such cases), though that would definitely be optional, and I think it not entirely likely.
  • Storage: I'd expect it to come in a couple of storage capacity sizes, probably 32 GB and 64 GB. Still built-in flash memory like the iPhone.
  • Operating system: I expect the tablet to use a variation of the iPhone OS. I wouldn't be surprised if it uses iPhone OS 4.0, i.e. so the iPhone and tablet share the same OS (with device-specific features, just like between the iPhone and iPod touch). If so, I'd expect Apple to rename it as "Touch OS" or similar... which they should have done with the intro of the iPod touch anyway.
  • Multitasking: With the larger screen and no doubt faster processor and more RAM, I'd expect the OS to support multitasking — allowing it to run multiple apps at the same time. There might be an easy way to switch running apps (e.g. press the Home button to flip through them), or it might be more transparent, simply not quitting apps when you go Home.
  • iPhone apps: Existing iPhone apps will probably be supported, launching into a window the same size as the iPhone screen for compatibility, perhaps with the ability to resize the window.
  • Other apps: No doubt Apple will bundle the device with new and updated apps written to leverage the larger screen. For example, the iPod and YouTube apps would play videos full-screen. There have been rumors of iWork for the tablet, which seems possible (and certainly welcome), though maybe not entirely likely.
  • Price: I've heard various prices suggested, as high as $1,000, but most people seem to think that $700 is the maximum it could go for. I'd hope for something around that range, or less if they can swing it. Like the iPhone, I'd expect the initial release to be priced fairly high, and for the price to drop later.
  • Availability: I expect Apple to announce it on Wednesday, and perhaps make a beta release of the developer SDK available at that time. It might be available for pre-order at that time, too. The tablet release will probably be around April, I would guess. Some people say March, but I don't think that would give developers enough time to update their apps or write new apps for the tablet. I wouldn't be surprised by a June release date, along with a new iPhone model and OS update for existing devices.

That's all I can think of at the moment. It'll certainly be interesting to see how far off I am when the event rolls around. Apple has a great capacity to surprise us — nobody could have predicted how great the iPhone would be before it was released, and I don't expect to be disappointed with the tablet.

What features would it need for me to buy one? Just one: existence. As soon as Apple announces a tablet for pre-ordering, you can bet I'll be breaking out my credit card. Even if the tablet isn't a life-changing device like the iPhone, which I expect it to be, I'll want one so I can develop for it.

a question or 2

Like your predictions - mostly that you made them in an organized and articulate way. Glad the Times let you self-promote, too!

Wondering what you think will "power" this baby.... I've heard about chips from ARM Holding that might be in it, but I wonder if there could be something more surprising inside.

Also - and related - how about battery life? It's great - and I think has more than a little wishful thinking in it - when people speculate that this (Tablet, in this case) might coexist with that or the other thing or everything and his brother.... Sorry, I do NOT see that happening, certainly not in an economy where people might actually care whether it cost $700 or $1000. (Actually, that's one where I beg to differ - if it's a "hot product," however that's defined and "made to happen," people will create a black market where people pay MORE than "face," and if it's flawed, people aren't going to bite at the lower price - IMO.)

Anyhow, I see this going toe-to-toe with netbooks, and battery life will surely be one of the things that determines who'll emerge with what "share." ... So I'm asking - could you watch a 90-120 minute movie w/ no power cord? ... And does it matter as much as I think it does?

David Sinclair's picture

Re: a question or 2

Thanks, I'm glad you and lots of others enjoyed my predictions / guesses.

I would expect the tablet to use an ARM processor, as the iPhone does, though really it could use anything. The processor isn't too important from the high-level software point of view.

I would expect quite decent battery life. It'd use more power than an iPhone, having a bigger screen, though might not have the draw of a cellular radio. But it'd have more room for a bigger battery, so I wouldn't be surprised by a 10 hour capacity. But we'll see; I'm not an expert on such things.