Who Needs An Apple Tablet?

Rumors that Apple is building a tablet computer have reached a fever-pitch over the past six months. The basic gist is it will have a 7 inch screen and run a version of the iPhone OS making a good chunk of the apps available to also run on this new tablet. But why do we even need such a thing?

This thing sounds too big to be carried around with you wherever you go like an iPhone or iPod Touch but too small for long periods of work. It almost seems like it is aimed at two lifestyles: 1) Frequent flyers, 2) a TV watching companion device. This sounds just like the MacBook Air which was introduced on January 15, 2008.

I wonder, how long the battery will last in order to power a 7 inch display? And what extra functionality will this bring to our lives? According to one rumor blog, Apple Insider,

“The tablet is expected to be portrayed as a multimedia device capable of browsing the Web, watching movies, and reading content.”

Wow, you mean just like my laptop of today? Again, why is everyone getting worked up over this?

There have also been rumors swirling that the iPhone is coming to Verizon, which seems less likely from a technical stance (CDMA vs. GSM). I think if we ever see an Apple/Verizon partnership it will be for a data plan for this tablet device so you can use the web wherever you go. Verizon currently does this with a few netbooks, though it is a horrible deal. $199.99 + a 2 year contract of at least $39.99 per month ($1,159.75 total), all for a dinky, underpowered netbook that retails for $399.99 on HP’s own site.

So the idea of an Apple tablet looks lackluster from my point of view pre-announcement. Maybe Apple has a card up its sleeve when it announces the device and the world will wonder how we lived in the pre-tablet era. Perhaps this post will go down in Apple fanboy history just like all the negative reactions when Apple first introduced the iPod in October, 2001. Or maybe the Apple Tablet will just fade away into gadget history just like the Apple Hi-Fi.

“Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where’s the Newton?!”

—WeezerX80’s reaction to the announcement of the iPod.

The Touch Book From Always Innovating

Always Innovating announced a new tablet/netbook hybrid today at the DEMO conference. What’s unique about this tiny notebook is the detachable tablet screen that has a magnetic backing so you can stick it to a refrigerator and turn it into an instant wall computer. Both the tablet half and the keyboard half have their own battery which is being touted to last for 10-15 hours. It is designed to be always on just like a cell phone and with 10 hours in between charges, it will probably surpass my T-Mobile Dash. Unlike most other netbooks on the market today, the Touch Book uses an ARM chip instead of a “power-hungry” Intel Atom processor.

The Touch Book by Always Innovating is a sleek netbook/tablet hybrid

The included operating system will be a Linux derivative developed by Always Innovating featuring a unique 3D UI. But since the device is open source, according to their FAQ you could “install many OSes on the device, including Google Android, Ubuntu, Angstrom and Windows CE, though we would not recommend the latter.” If it can run the gorgeous looking Jolicloud OS from Netvibes founder Tariq Krim then I’m sold. Who needs an Apple netbook anyway?

Jolicloud mixes desktop and cloud software with large icons that make it easier on Netbook users.

I don’t believe any of the tech media has had a chance for a hands on review, but I’m anxious if this device lives up to it’s hype. Coming in at $399 for the tablet and keyboard or $299 for just the tablet, this little ultra portable really piques my interest. It is expected to ship in May or June of this year but is available for pre-order now.

Speaking of ultra-portables, I was at a Microcenter over the weekend and I happened to see a Fujitsu LifeBook U820. This thing was tiny! The dimensions are 6.73″ x 6.14″ with a 5.6″ screen. I had to squint to see my mouse cursor and the keyboard was just small enough for fat-finger mashing. Sometimes there is such a thing as “too small.” The scary thing is it runs Windows Vista Business. Pocketables.net has a good picture of it in use.

The Fujitsu Lifebook U820 requires tiny fingers.

Other coverage of the Touch Book:

Microsoft’s InkSeine Offers An Intuitive Tablet Interface

I was churning through my array of video podcasts this morning on my commute when I came across this 3 minute demo of InkSeine which stopped me dead in my tracks. InkSeine is a prototype ink application designed from the ground up to completely rethink how people interact with tablet computers. Gone are the menus that run across the top and instead are replaced with contextual gestures that can appear anywhere on the screen. Take a look at the video to see what I mean.

Technology like this would be really useful on a touch-screen mobile device, say maybe like an iPhone? At any rate it is interesting to see new interactions with a computer minus the mouse and keyboard.