Why the Apple Tablet (and clones) will Change the World

by Bruce Webb

I’m serious. But out of mercy towards those who want to reach for sharp objects every time they see a Mac/PC ad, whether that be to hurt themselves or others, I’ll take this below the fold. Because you don’t HAVE to slow down to see that car crash.

For those living in a cave Apple is expected to release its Tablet tomorrow. The Tablet is expected to be essentially a much larger iPhone with a form factor of maybe 10″ by 8″ by 1/4″ meaning slightly bigger but thinner than a trade paperback. Like an iPhone its surface will be almost entirely a screen, and that screen a multi-touch surface meaning that you move within screens and between screens with finger movements. Text input will be by default a virtual keyboard right on the screen although there is no reason in principal it should not accept external wireless or usb input devices.

The expectation is that the Tablet will provide internet and file access everywhere you go, pull it out, push a button, the screen lights up and there you are and all without separating you from the world in the way a laptop does. Eight people sitting around a table with open lap tops is eight people sitting behind mini-walls. Compare that to eight people sitting around a table with legal pads. That is a meeting. A couple having breakfast at a cafe each with a laptop, it might as well be an advertisement for marriage counseling. That same couple at that cafe each browsing through the Sunday paper on their own 8 x 10 screens flat on the table or held in their hands are free to look at each other and talk and share, it is just a totally different look and feel both between them and from the outside in.

And appearance matters, because frankly if you are sitting at a park bench, or at the beach, or in a museum, or watching football while sitting at the bar in your local tavern you look pretty god damn dorkish with an open laptop, and it is not much better if you are peering at some tiny screen on your cell phone. And while I love my iPhone and spend hours and hours a day surfing the web when I am sitting at a table it is abundantly clear thats what I am doing. On the other hand a Tablet will allow you that same access while maintaining a social presense, the screen is there, you can read or manipulate it without disconnecting from the world.

Unless you have had the experience of using an advanced smartphone it is hard to explain how transforming it is to have the Internet in your pocket, if I have a question about anything it is mostly as close as my left pocket. But like the iPhone the Tablet is a lot more than a combined phone/usable web browser, it is a host for Apps, millions of them. And it is the Apps that are the game changer. Because the possibilities are quite literally endless.

You are travelling and maybe a little lost. Pull out your 8 x 10 Tablet push a button and your location is pinpointed on a street map. You are waiting for a train or bus or trying to make a connection. Push a button you got a schedule and a map. You got ten minutes and want to work on a crossword puzzle, or read your bible, or figure out your next move in your chess game, or check the weather, or catch a litle of the game. Pull out your tablet push a button and select an icon. Or catch up on your e-mail or identify that bird or pay some bills, with a tablet you can have one touch access to easily 100 such applications right from your front screen, with many times more on board or in the cloud.

My brother has a Kindle and likes it a lot. But he gets frustrated when reading military history because the battle maps are just so small and he can’t distinguish the individual unit detail. Well that shouldn’t be a problem with a Tablet you just move your fingers and expand the image.

Obviously there are other tablet and tablet hybrid products out there but none that will have access to tens of thousands of free or inexpensive programs. For example how many kids would kill to be able to just pull an 8 x 10 Tablet from their purse or backpack push a button, hit an icon and have their Facebook Wall right there. Or all your music. Or maybe your textbooks. Or if you are a grand mother maybe an entire gallery of photos.

I think it is a category killer. Because I can’t think of anyone who could not use a portable display that can either lay flat on a surface or up on a frame that will display whatever your standard tool: cookbook, parts catalog, U.S. Code, warehouse inventory but that with the touch of a button can turn into a communication device, all while serving as a clock whatever, and then when taken to the break room seamlessly turns into a Soduku puzzle or a paperback, or a newscast, and then after work into a sports trivia book. People who think this will just be another fancy laptop just have not considered the difference the form factor and the fact that it is a sealed unit makes. You have to be kind of an obsessed nut to take your laptop to the beach, or bikeriding, or camping or really to any tourist attraction. But what if you could just dump all your photos into the tablet and display them immediately, or have all your route or USGS Topo maps preloaded. Particularly since like the iPhone it is likely to come with built-in GPS. Instead of being a geek who brings his office on vacation, you have a way of enhancing that vacation experience (while still being in touch with the office as necessary.)

Last but not least this thing will a blogger’s dream, particularly for the casual blogger. Because it will allow monitoring and updating your blog to be done everywhere without the hassle of trying to deploy a laptop. Now you wouldn’t want to sit down and pound out serious copy on a virtual keyboard the size that a 10″ tablet with accommodate but it is plenty big to pound out a 400 word post or a five thousand character comment. And live-blogging anything becomes a snap.

Best feature of all? Nearly beer-proof. Spill a ball park beer on your laptop and you really will be crying, and not over the beer. Spill it on a tablet and absent some really bad luck you are a wet towel away from being back to a blogging machine.

(No word if it will have a video camera like the iPod Nano but if it does, we got Dick Tracy’s Wrist TV. Only 70 years later!)