Monday, 27 July 2009

Link of the Day: Apple Tablet/MacTouch/iPad

Primary version of this post at Barry Stocker's Weblog, with picture of what the new device might look like!

“Apple's much-anticipated tablet device coming early next year”

Key Points

10 inch touch screen.

Will use cell phone networks like an iPhone, and price will be subsidised by cellular network providers.

New App Store.

Very light, thin, portable device which will do most of what a laptop/desktop has been used for, possibly all these functions depending on ports.

Could replace the role MacBook used to have as the most popular Apple computer.

AppleInsider, which has a very good record in predicting new Apple products, is now predicting a new range of Apple devices by next Spring. Apple is notoriously secretive about its product development, apparently devising elaborate security procedures to stop employees sharing information with each other about new products, and working very hard to stop leaks to the outside world. Also Apple appears to have dumped a lot of potential products after development, the CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs very much works on the principle that Apple should stick to a limited range of products where it can produce something exceptional. Apple has the usual status of a corporation with a lot of intense fans (and critics), so rumours and speculation fill the gap. Nevertheless complete secrecy is impossible, and patterns are observable in which rumours grow and converge over time about a new product, where that product really exists. We are certainly at that stage with the ‘iPad’ rumours. AppleInsider is just the most reliable of the many sources which are now predicting such a device.

Place in the Apple line up

Between iPhone/iPod Touch and MacBook in price.

Between iPhone/iPod Touch and MacBook Air in specifications

‘iPad’ will replace partly MacBook which is now a residual model only available in white, below an expanded MacBook Pro range, which now starts at 13 inches.

The growing technological capacity to have high functioning small light devices at low prices means that some people who used to get a MacBook will get an ‘iPad’ instead, or will maybe have an ‘iPad’ as a second computer after an iMac (desktop with hard drive in screen), Mac Pro (traditional desktop tower) or MacBook Pro. MacBook Air already fills that role, but at a high price.

What was the MacBook market will now be divided between ‘iPad’ and the MacBook Pro and Air lines.

Place in general range of computing devices

High end netbooks, low end laptops/notebooks.

What are the likely specifications?

Screen 10 inches

Most people say that 10 inch screens are being produced, a few are predicting 9 inch screens.

Touch Pad Screen

Screen will be touch pad, as in iPhone and iPod Touch, so no physical keyboard or separate track pad.

No optic drive for DVDs and CDs

The MacBook Air, which can download wirelessly from DVDs and CDs on other devices, has no optic drive so ‘iPad’ will probably have the same capacities.


The MacBook Air has one USB port, one audio output port and an external display port. The ‘iPad’ will not have more and will probably have less. The issue of ports is important in determining how far ‘iPad’ will replace desktops and laptops. This will not be completely possible if there is no USB, despite the spread of wireless connectivity I presume there will always be a need for physical connections with peripheral devices. Anyway, we are certainly not at the point where wireless connections can completely replace physical connections.

New App Store

The iPhone and iPod Touch have an App Store on iTunes, with over 55 000 applications from third party soft ware designers, many are free or only ten dollars. The ‘iPad’ will need a separate range of applications because of the bigger screen, which requires new code for the old applications. Apple will certainly be aiming to turn the iPad into another major platform for applications, amongst other things making it a major gaming platform.

Wifi and Cell Phone Networks

Like netbooks, the ‘iPad’ will be designed around wireless connectivity. At present netbooks, notebooks and laptops can be connected to cell phone networks with an ugly looking USB ‘dongle’. There are clearly negotiations going on with cellular network providers for the ‘iPad’ to be connected with cell phone networks and to be subsidised in price by providers. The downside of this is that in many countries purchase will probably only be possible with such a plan, and that in some countries only one provider will be co-operating with Apple.

Operating System

This will be OS X (pronounced OS Ten) as with Mac computers and the iPhone. The iPhone and Macs use different versions of OS X though, so that raises the possibility that ‘iPad’ will have its own version. I doubt it, I guess that OS X for Mac will be used, and that will be reflected in the naming if the device: ‘Mac Touch’? Apple could be tempted to have a lower functioning version of OS for ‘iPad’ in order to reduce loss of sales of MacBook devices, but since they are clearly going to eliminate the MacBook proper I doubt they are concerned. The MacBook name now survives for a white plastic version only which is not being advertised, and can only be found on the Apple website with some persistence. The new 13 inch unibody Macs were initially advertised as MacBook, but are now the entry level MacBook Pro models (below the 15 inch and 17 inch models), with more ports than when originally launched. Apple are now clearly moving towards premium devices at 13 inches and above, and a very mobile device at 10 inches which could take over the role MacBook used to have as the standard and most popular Mac device. In that case, it’s hard to see Apple offering a cut down version of OS X only, which would require time and money to develop.

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