I’ve amazed even myself (no small feat) by refraining from bombarding this blog with every rumour regarding Apple’s upcoming Tablet device. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve read and re-read every rumour there is out there and have spent far too much time boring those around me with my own thoughts on the matter.
Put simply, I must have one.
I know, I know – I’m sounding like your typical Apple fanboy, but hang on in there and I’ll provide you with some sort of rationale for my Tablet envy, beyond an Apple logo and an endorsement from Steve Jobs.
Back in the dark days before the advent of the iPhone, I was a PDA man. By which I mean, I owned a series of “Personal Digital Assistants”, like Palm Pilots and other similar gadgets. They held my organised life: contacts, appointments, notes, regularly used information for work and much much more. I say “series”, as the technology rapidly improved, moving from monochrome green screens to colour, web-enabled mini-computers – and I upgraded from one to the next like a features addict.
But for me, these little tools weren’t just status objects (like the flashier mobile phones) but instead actually helped me get organised. I used them daily, intensively. But what I lusted after was an Apple Newton. That was the holy grail of all PDAs and had functionality I could only dream of. The barrier? Price. I was fresh out of an undergraduate psychology degree, making plans for postgrad study, and the moolah for another gadget, no matter how desirable, simply wasn’t available.
And then Apple stopped making them.
I was knee-deep in learning about the psychology of organisations, and a tad distracted when the news filtered down to me. Disappointed, nonetheless. What followed was years of using two devices – a mobile phone for communication and a PDA for information management. I was laughed at by more than one colleague or friend, but persevered. I found the combination useful and began to rely on this approach for managing my digital life, all the time wishing for something like the Newton to come back.
So here we are in 2010 and there’s a real chance (I can’t contemplate the alternative) of Apple releasing a tablet computer which could fill the void left by the death of the Newton. With just a couple of days to go until the rumoured launch, I’d like to share what I’m hoping to see Steve Jobs announce on Wednesday. Predicting what Apple is going to announce has long been viewed as something of a fool’s game, but regardless I’m hoping the Tablet will be able the give me the following:
1. eReader functionality: What Apple did for digital music with the iTunes, they could do for books. I love paper books, but have used a Sony eReader for the past few months and have been amazed at the flexibility it provides for readers. I can carry around thousands of books in a device slimmer than the average paperback. I can keep the digital equivalent of bookmarks in several books, so as to read them at the same time. The Sony is nice, if a little slow, and does the job admirably. I have no doubt that an Apple-designed eReader would blow Sony, Kindle et al out of the water with its ease of use and design aesthetics. But they won’t design an eReader. Apple has guided us down the multi-function path since the original iPhone was launched, combining phone, iPod and access to the internet in a single device. So they’ll simply add the ability to read books, magazine and other media on the Tablet. Linking this up to an easy-to-use iTunes store for books will mean book purchasing while out and about, the way we now buy music.
2. Mobile Me integration: I’m not asking for much here, just the ability to have the Tablet play nice with Apple’s Mobile Me service. Specifically, this wold allow me access to all the data Mobile Me syncs onto my iPhone now. So while I love being able to access and amend my calendars on my iPhone, I’m frequently frustrated by the size of the screen. Accessing this information on anything over 7 inches would be great. The same holds true for notes. I use Evernote so much that it’s become a sort of external digital brain for me. To have this available on a Tablet would be fantastic and could even do away with the need for my Filofax. Yes, I use a Filofax – a big black leather A5 size. A digital notebook would render this obsolete (some people would argue this is the case already!) and mean one less thing to carry around for work. Similarly, Mobile Me would seamlessly sync my email, photos, browser bookmarks and any other personal data I’d like to carry around with me. I’m looking for the Tablet to be a Newton on speed, a digital notebook and repository of information, thoughts and pictures.
3. Connectivity: I really don’t want to have to sign up with a mobile phone company to buy the Tablet, so I’m not interested in a 3G connection. I want it to have Wifi connectivity, so I can access the web/cloud when I’m in a wifi spot. When I’m not, I’d like to be able to access the information synced to my device in an offline mode. Wifi availability is not universal, even here in London. So this device can’t be dependent on an internet connection to work. If Apple do work with mobile providers to offer the Tablet, I hope there’s a degree of flexibility in the data plans and that existing iPhone customers aren’t disadvantaged when it comes to pricing. But as mobile phone companies are among the most rapacious and inflexible in the world of business, I’m not optimistic here.
4. iPhone Apps: The iTunes App store has created a market for innovative applications for mobile devices and I rely on a number of these daily. It would be great to have versions of these on the Tablet. I’m not a developer, but I can’t imagine it’s all that difficult to repurpose existing apps to work on a larger screen. I’m looking for things like Evernote, Remember the Milk and all the great apps that came with my iPhone (Weather, Maps, YouTube) to work just as well on a Tablet. Most of the rumours I’ve read regarding the operating system of the Tablet put it closer to the iPhone OS, rather than a full-blown implementation of the Mac OS. I hope this is the case, as it would open up all of the great software created for the iPhone. If I’m really honest, I’d hope that if I’ve already paid for an app in the iTunes store, a free Tablet version would be made available when it’s ready. But for some of the best apps, I wouldn’t mind paying extra for a Tablet version.
5. Storage: Simply put, I’d like to be able to copy files from my Mac, put them on the Tablet and then transfer them to another computer. This is something the iPhone lacks, despite it’s 32Gb memory. An example: I’d like to avoid carting my Macbook to a meeting, when I can just put relevant documents onto the Tablet (wifi, bluetooth, cable… I don’t mind) and access them when with clients. Then, if need be, I can share them with clients by linking with their own computer, just like I would with a USB memory stick. This would mean one less thing to carry around to many meetings. I don’t want to involve iTunes or account syncing in all of this – the Tablet should be recognised by any vaguely modern OS as a USB device and permit the moving of files. Sharing aside, I’d like to be able to at least read, if not edit, the documents I carry (e.g. Powerpoint decks, Word docs etc). If the Tablet works nicely with iWork, I’ll switch to using that full-time.
And that’s it. Well, it’s not a complete wishlist, but it’s the bare bones of what a successful Tablet would look like to me. There are just a few more days to go until Steve gives us something new. If it’s not a Tablet, then I and thousands of others, have really been barking up the wrong tree. As I said, predicting Apple announcements is a dangerous business. I’m hoping for the best, both in terms of functionality and price. Thoughts on the latter depress me, but as ever where Apple is concerned, I simply remind myself that I can survive with a single kidney.
Does eBay permit auctions of human organs?