And Now For A Different Kind of Curmudgeonry
I think that the exciting things about the new Apple iPad are the touch screen User Interface (TScrUI) and it’s geographic/orientation awareness. Basically, Wired and all of the technology editors that are so excited about it are only talking about that, no new applications. All the reviews I’ve seen show the Periodic Table App, and although it’s available on the iPod Touch, that screen is so small that no one has made a fuss about it there.
The Wired review basically said that the iPad will change the world but I don't buy it (their position nor the iPad). The most interesting point they made is that it is a “window”, you can hold it up and look through the window to see the night sky, or when it has a camera, it can annotate what’s its showing on the screen. Personally I don’t yet see the portable window as a killer app.
It's the next step that I think is important. Adding the camera, usb/printer connections, etc will no doubt appear next. So how about a keyboard? And that's when I think that the User Interface, the design, i.e. mechanically and logically, integrating the touch Pad and a (virtual?) keyboard is really interesting. I think that step will have a lot to do with the ultimate success of touch screen tablets. And I’m not optimistic about it.
This note began as a result of an email conversation with a great friend of mine. In one of his messages he said: “I see cell phones, computers, and 3D converging into - what ?” I'm not sure that cell phones and computers will ‘merge.’ I think that at best, when you are home the cell phone will rest in a socket on your computer/3D TV/Entertainment Center—your Home Electronic Center (HEC). The HEC would provide a full size keyboard (for texting as well as word processing) and a large screen. There the phone will get its batteries charged and will synch the files, e.g. address book/phone book/local maps. And perhaps all of that except battery charging can be done wirelessly. The HEC will serve all of the things that a 2"x3" screen and a 2"x3" keyboard cannot do well, e.g. spreadsheets, documents, 3D movies. In other words trying to pack all that stuff into a gadget that will fit in a man's pocket or even a woman's purse just doesn't compute. I can see the cell phone providing the still/video/webcam camera input for the HEC along with phone/fax services. And that leaves us with the problem of the human factors of a large touch screen on the HEC.
Perhaps the touch screen tablet replaces the TV remote. Mechanical connection to the keyboard can provide the familiar laptop computer arrangement when you want that. It can show the entire HEC screen, provide the touch screen facilities on your lap that control the same functionality you see on your 3D big screen. I think that essentially all of the user interaction with our cable box, selecting programs from a schedule, scheduling recordings, etc., can all be better served via a touch screen interface remote.
I think that the iPad release 1.0 is just a dandy information access device, i.e. Kindle Generation II. And, I'm not sure how successful it will be. Of course if they only sell 1.5 million of them at $500 a piece, that's probably around $375 million for Apple and that might mean $100 million they can devote to iPad Release 2.0.