The most interesting thing about the much-rumoured Apple tablet computer is just that – the rumour mill. Anybody who is anybody in the tech world has an opinion on this yet-to-be-confirmed product, what impact it will have, who'll use it and whether or not it'll be any good. There are already thousands of blog posts about this ‘officially non-existent’ product, a tribute to the brilliance of Apple’s PR machine.
As an Apple fanboy of many years standing (the first Apple machine I used was either a Macintosh IIcx or SE around 1989 - both still working and cherished) I have to say it'll be brilliant, but just what it will be brilliant at is the question.
I already have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro (with a frustratingly dodgy keyboard, but that’s another story), and a PowerMac G5 (and I won’t get into the collection of older machines lurking in the attic), so what do I need another piece of portable fancy kit for? I've noticed recently that I use my iPhone for most of my Twittering and web surfing. I can surf on the sofa, in bed or in the pub, much to my other half’s chagrin.
The iPhone’s biggest problems are its screen size and CPU power – 3.5 inches just isn’t quite big enough and while the phone is grand for most websites, the small text and constant scrolling becomes tiresome. Some sites just don’t work at all ( – come on Apple, stop the war with Adobe, allow Flash to run).
Wouldn't it be great if there was a device bigger than a phone but smaller, lighter and more convenient than a laptop?
That's the killer feature I think the iSlate (as the rumour-mongers have dubbed it after a discreet Apple domain registration surfaced) will naturally have. If there was a machine almost as portable as an iPhone that enabled me to surf the web more comfortably I'd buy it. If it was also able to be used as an ebook and specialist news reader (like Amazon’s Kindle) it would be a bonus. Apple already has retail experience: Its iTunes store is perfectly positioned to sell books, newspapers and magazines alongside the music, movies, TV shows and applications. According to rumours, Apple has ordered special ten-inch touchscreen displays from every supplier in the world (that is, several Chinese companies). That sounds about right.
The questions that everybody needs the answers to are: What kind of processor will it have (though a specialist ARM mobile CPU is most likely)? Will it be a souped-up iPhone using a more powerful version of the iPhoneOS (which seems most likely), or will it be more powerful and capable of running a more-intact version of MacOSX 10.6 Snow Leopard (growing tired of the ridiculous names Apple gives its operating systems)? Will it have Flash support? How much storage will it have? How fancy will the multi-touch interface be (my guess: very)? Will it have a webcam for Skype? Will it have a mobile-phone SIM? Will the first one be as rubbish as the first iPhone and the third attempt brilliant?
My hunch is that it’ll be close to a netbook – simple, relatively cheap, not particularly powerful and with limited storage. As always with Apple, it’ll have a beautiful, polished, user-friendly interface inside a beautiful brushed aluminium and/or black plastic and glass case.
We’ll just have to wait until the announcement on January 26 (or is that 27?).
Tablet PC - a computer, much like those pictured, that is one single. flat screen
Domain - a web address, eg google.com
Multi-touch - interacting with a computer using your hands on a display surface
Pictures courtesy of www.islateus.com, www.macislate.net