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Our iTablet Dreams: What TUAW is wishing for


Last week the topic of the iTablet ranged into dream territory as we TUAWians discussed this speculative post over at Technologizer. Although some team members expressed reservations about the iTablet and its possible limitations, others of us let our hopes range free. With apologies to Robert Browning, at least I think it is Robert Browning, if our dreams do not exceed Apple's grasp, then what is the imagination for? So keeping that expansive philosophy in mind, here are the TUAW wishlists for the possibly probably upcoming tablet.

Erica Sadun:

While I'm still hoping for a dockable, one that works as a Snow Leopard desktop when docked and runs iPhone OS on the go, I'm not holding my breath either. Today's MacBook storage and battery options prove that with a dockable tablet, I could bring my entire world with me and use that world for reasonable periods of time -- but it would take a significant engineering effort to merge iPhone's ubiquitous touch screen technology with standard Mac OS X interaction models.

So, will the tablet really run Snow Leopard? Er, probably not. But could you imagine a MacBook shell, where you could slide the tablet into a frame where the screen normally sits? That would be freaking awesome.

Even as an iPhone-OS-only solution, an iTablet would provide wealth of on-the go applications through App Store. Assuming no great leaps forward beyond what we're already seeing in the iPhone OS 3.x SDK, an iTablet would be ready to provide existing iPhone capabilities with a beautiful big screen to work with.

If I had to pick two features that I'd want to see added, though, they would be wireless support for external keyboards and ubiquitous TV-out. Although the on-screen keyboard is fine for tip-tapping data into fields, there will be times that a tablet user might want to unfold a portable Bluetooth keyboard and use that for data entry.

TV-out support is currently limited to movie playback. Extending that to general application output would help position an iTablet better into the business presentation world. It would also be nice if an Apple Remote of some kind could be used with an iTablet.

Even without these features, an iTablet limited to the current iPhone OS will be a major technology leap forward just due to the increased screen real estate. I can't wait to start playing with big-screen iPhone applications!

Steve Sande:

The main reason I have a MacBook Air right now is because a) I have to travel frequently, b) I hate carrying around a heavy laptop, and c) I need to be able to show PowerPoint and Keynote presentations through PC projectors. Since I can't do this with an iPhone, I d) need the laptop.

If Apple produces a tablet that is even lighter than a MacBook Air, has video-out capabilities, and features built-in wireless broadband for Internet connectivity "everywhere," I'll be very interested. If that tablet also has 10 hour battery life, some compelling killer touch apps, and can also replace my Apple TV, I'm in. If it's running Mac OS X instead of iPhone OS, I'll be standing in line to buy one the minute it's announced.

Why do I want Mac OS X on a tablet like this? I'd like to be able to run my existing Mac applications on it. Of course, the very fact that such a device could cannibalize sales of the three MacBook product lines is a compelling reason for Apple to make it an iPhone OS device. As long as the iPhone development community can use the extra real estate on an 8.9" or 10" screen to give me Mac OS X-like functionality in a thin tablet, I can live with iPhone OS.

One more thing -- it would be cool if handwriting recognition through Inkwell or some other method was enabled for making quick handwritten notes and drawings, and of course building in the 2009 version of Newton Intelligent Assistance capability would be awesome, too!

Michael Jones:

Personally, I'd love to see the device have the option of running standard OS X (with touch-based enhancements, of course), but also be capable of many of the touch features that iPhone OS has. I'd be an extra bonus if it could run iPhone apps without modification, but I'd be willing to do without that in favor of having a true OS X install. I don't want to see the device locked down like the iPhone is, since it will likely not have phone capabilities and therefore won't be subject to the whims of AT&T and friends. Also, like Steve, I'd love to see handwriting capabilities -- there's really not much point in a decent sized tablet without being able to jot down notes or draw up quick diagrams.

As for the hardware, as much as I would love to see a MacBook combo tablet where the screen pivoted around, we know Apple probably has something new and breakthrough up their sleeves. I'm betting the device will be just the screen, and will be impossibly thin and light, similar to holding a MacBook Air display in your hand (without the rest of the laptop, but probably a comparable weight and thickness for other components and the battery.) I'm also holding out for custom apps that will allow you to control another Mac easily from the tablet, making it ideal to use during presentations.

Chris Rawson:

I'm not really in the market for a tablet-sized device. I've got a 17" MacBook Pro to do my heavy computing, and an iPhone to do lighter tasks when I'm on the go. For me, the gap in functionality between the two doesn't seem wide enough to justify a whole new device that's halfway between an iPhone and a MacBook. Plus, one of the greatest things about the iPhone is it's a computer that fits in your pocket, something an iTablet wouldn't be able to do.

In order for me to get really excited about an iTablet, it would have to be more than a gap-filler between the iPhone and the MacBook. It would have to be revolutionary, a device that does something neither existing product is able to do.

If it had built-in 3G that wasn't tied to any one particular wireless provider, that would be a truly killer feature. A device with "anywhere" Internet access, but not chained to a provider like AT&T, would be exactly the kind of revolutionary product I've been dreaming of. Unfortunately, unless Apple decides to erect its own worldwide 3G network, iPhones and/or iTablets will never realize their true potential.

Most of all, I'm simply looking forward to the device being released at last, whatever its features. Ten years of foreplay is a bit much.

Joachim Bean:

I'm hoping for something portable, solid, and hoping that it's fantastic to use. I'm want it to provide a great user experience, just like the iPhone does. I also hope that it's built of aluminum, something to withstand heavy usage and that will hold up well. As far as the OS, I hope that it fits in with the dimensions and features of the device, and it would be neat if it ran the iPhone OS. Finally, I would expect something around the 8-10 inch range, which would make it a good device to work and play on, while being portable at the same time.

Aron Trimble:

I'm with Erica on this one... I am reminded of an Apple patent for a display/dock combination in which the MacBook/iTablet/whatever slid horizontally into the unit. The fact that all current MBPs have ports (power, display, USB) on the left and optical drives on the right side of the enclosure give me hope that one day this product will be real.

My ideal iTablet would run Snow Leopard or iPhone OS depending on which suited my tastes at the time. Running an instant-on, low-power iPhone OS on a tablet that got 10 hours or a full-blown install of Snow Leopard on the same device at 5-7 hours would be most excellent.

Tim Wasson:
I know the Apple worked wonders with the iPhone by eliminating the stylus and making the whole thing work with only your fingers, but my hope for an iTablet would bring back the pen for all of us wannabe illustrators out there. If the iTablet had a pen/stylus support and pressure sensitive screen, I could get rid of my Wacom Cintiq and work directly on my iTablet in coffee shops, on the couch, or wherever I wanted. The Cintiq is way too clunky to move anywhere.

I guess for me, I'd want the iTablet would be a really expensive replacement for my sketchbook.

Of course, that would require a full OS X installation and applicable software (Painter, Photoshop, etc.). A dock would be nice but, for me, not a necessity. I can't imagine it would replace my MacBook Pro so I'd probably never work on it outside of tablet mode.

Victor Agreda, Jr.

In the spirit of the iPhone, first touted as "An iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator," I'd like to see the gap-filling device aimed squarely at the average consumer. An Apple tablet form factor device would serve as a photo frame, family calendar, internet communicator, and everything else folks have mentioned. Whether it runs Snow Leopard or iPhone OS is largely immaterial to me (although I see cases for both).

Outside of the Duo-esque form factor Erica describes, I doubt I'd use a tablet as a work machine -- not even with screen sharing. But as a centralized home media manager and internet communicator? That intrigues me. The ability to create a family calendar on any Mac and have it displayed on your wall (along with photos) can't be underestimated when talking about the home user. The latest functions of the iPhone 3GS, like video editing, would be great, and I think could be expanded upon. iChat, for example, and with video this time.

While I love the idea of a cell radio in the tablet, I'm leery of adding yet another monthly bill just to have a simple stay-at-home jumbo iPod touch.

Michael Rose

I understand my colleagues' desire for a tablet device running Mac OS X. Sadly, it is not going to happen -- at least not with an Apple box around it, since you can already pick up the Axiotron Modbook if you want. The iTablet will be running iPhone OS, and faced with that reality there are a few use cases where I can see this product really breaking out of the pack:

Kidtainment. Yes, it's expensive as a family product, but so were in-dash DVD players at first, and those found a market. Give the HD video experience and the gaming oomph of the App Store to families and watch them go.

CloudPad. We're moving past the App Store and back to the always-on, demand-and-receive application capabilities of online suites. Take the MobileMe and experience, sprinkle in the JavaScript speed of the latest Webkit builds, and get ready to rumble with Google and Microsoft's browser-based productivity tools.

Final Cut Touch
. It may seem contrary to think about power video editing on a device with less than 100 GB of storage, but imagine the sheer grace and effectiveness of a drag, stretch, drop and sweep-based UI for video editing work. Offer a model with a hard drive and a USB or Firewire port, and suddenly you can take your motion work with you wherever you go.

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