I Am Joe’s Blog:

January 23, 2010 • 12:28 PM

Apple Tablet Rumor Ruminations

Let me begin by saying that I don’t know anything more about the new product(s) Apple will be announcing on January 27 than anyone else outside the company. (And I can’t get over how often people ask me what I know about future Apple products, as if Apple would share their trade secrets with me but not the rest of the world!) The only thing I can say for sure is that I’ve had discussions with two publishers about the possibility of writing a book on the next iProduct, whatever it is and whenever it’s released, so it’s a fairly safe bet you’ll see my name and the name of the new whatever-it-is sharing a book cover later this year.

But last night while I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I was thinking about the various rumors I’ve read, the paint-spattered “Come see our latest creation” invitation to the upcoming event, and the fact that no one, to this point, has proposed anything I’d consider a killer application for a product that’s presumably something like a large iPhone/iPod touch or a MacBook without a keyboard. So far, I haven’t read any descriptions of what the thing might do that make me conclude I really need to spend another however many hundreds of dollars on a device to supplement my iPhone and MacBook Pro—something that’ll do things neither of those devices can do, and do them so well that I can’t live without it. (Other than, you know, in the sense that I can’t live without money, and I make money by writing books about technology.)

As all these ideas were bashing around in my head, I thought of Wacom’s Cintiq, which is a graphics tablet with a display underneath the surface, so the artist doesn’t have to choose between looking at the pen and looking at the screen. And I thought, hmmmm, there’s a handheld device with a wide-screen display and touch-sensitive surface, no keyboard, hooks up to a Mac or PC, and costs $1000. Where have I heard those specs before?

So this is what I’m thinking:

  • One of the major selling points (not the only point, by any means) of the new iProduct will be its painting/drawing capabilities. Which means…
  • Apple will introduce some brand new iApplication that runs on the device and does for graphics what GarageBand does for music creation—puts high-quality results within easy reach of non-professionals. But that would make the most sense if…
  • A version of said application also runs on your desktop computer—though probably just Macs, like most of Apple’s other apps. So, in addition, I’m guessing…
  • The iProduct could be used for painting/drawing in either a stand-alone way, with the new iApplication, or as an input device for an existing program on your computer (Photoshop or Illustrator or whatever). Needless to say…
  • This’ll all work wirelessly, unlike the Cintiq. And…
  • A stylus will be optional. (Hello, finger painting!)
  • If Apple does use the name “iPad,” I think it’ll apply to the software, not the hardware.

So, if this all came true, you’d be getting a thing with considerably more capabilities than the Cintiq for (I imagine) about the same price. This all seems utterly logical to me, and I’m rather surprised that none of the gadget blogs and rumor sites I’ve read have been playing up this particular scenario. But since I have nothing to lose by being wrong, I wanted to go on record with my predictions, such as they are.

Now, I have zero artistic skills or ambitions, and personally, I don’t think this set of capabilities would interest me much regardless of how easy and snazzy Apple were to make the software. I can’t imagine watching movies on such a thing (my flat-screen TV would get jealous), and I’m not a gamer, so those capabilities (which will surely also be present) won’t attract me either. I’d read books on it, sure, and surf the Web from the sofa, but I can already do that on my iPhone. So I’m still waiting to find out what it is about this hypothetical device that would induce me to buy it if I weren’t doing so for entirely professional (and tax-deductible) reasons. We’ll know soon enough!

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