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Tablet Tidbits

What to do when no one manufacturer seems capable of building the gadget of your dreams? Why not engage in a little wish fulfillment about the most secretive company in all of the tech business?

For several weeks now, people have been speculating, and in some cases obsessing, about the possibility of Apple building some kind of tablet computer. Other vendors have tried and failed to deliver this kind of Internet-connected, touchscreen device -- witness, for example, Microsoft's doomed Smart Displays and equally wretched "Ultra Mobile PC" concepts, Sony's long-forgotten Airboard or Nokia's somewhat-more-practical N810.

Could be the iPhone company get this concept right? When you don't know anything specific about an upcoming device, anything seems possible. The Mac news site TidBits parodied this with a list of fake Apple-tablet rumors (e.g., "I heard the Apple Tablet's back will be covered in solar panels and can recharge a Prius in 2 hours.").

In the same way, PC World writer Michael Scalisi felt free to dismiss this hypothetical device as "a train wreck," based only on his understanding of what it would feature.

The discussion got a little more specific today, when the Wall Street Journal's Yukari Iwatani Kane reported that Apple is working to build a tablet under the exacting direction of founder and chief executive Steve Jobs.

Just a few months after Steve Jobs had a liver transplant, the Apple Inc. chief executive is once again managing even the smallest details of his company's products, this time focused on a new tablet device.
Since his return in late June, the 54-year-old has been pouring almost all of his attention into a new touch-screen gadget that Apple is developing, said people familiar with the situation.

But even the WSJ's story leaves plenty of room for interpretation and imagination -- all of which could turn out to be incorrect, since Jobs could apparently still decide to send this effort back into the lab.

Here's all that I will predict about an Apple tablet -- or an Apple netbook, which would fill a demonstrated need in the market:

1) Apple will price this thing at a level that seems borderline absurd next to existing hardware.

2) It will include at least one feature that most people had never thought to ask for.

3) It will leave out at least one feature that most people had considered essential.

4) Press coverage of its launch will feature at least one skeptical quote from an executive at a competing company that the quoted party may regret later.

5) People will line up in front of Apple's stores to buy it.

6) Buyers will be happy enough about their purchase that they will choose to overlook a missing capability or a performance issue.

7) The second version of the device will work a lot better than the first.

There's also the possibility that we're all wrong about this Apple tablet rumor, and that Apple's venture into the "tablet space" will continue to be its well-established, quite popular iPod touch.

Are you looking to buy some sort of intermediate device between a smartphone and a laptop for Internet access, or do you already own one and call it a netbook?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 25, 2009; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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I was skeptical about the iPhone physicality before it launched: how will the glass stay smudge- and scratch free? how will you be able to type fast with two fingers?

Those turned out to be non-issues. Apple got it right.

With the tablet, similar questions: How will you hold it and type with two hands? How will it maintain a good viewing angle if you want to put it down to type?

Those two alone could be dealbreakers. But what if the "one more thing" in this case is voice recognition? (though I wouldn't talk to the thing in public).

I'm curious it see if Apple solves these issues ingeniously. If they don't, they'll have another hockey-puck mouse disaster.

Posted by: PopDaddy1 | August 25, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

When Apple releases new products they usually try to solve some big problem we didn't know we had. With iLife the problem was we had all bought digital cameras and camcorders and didn't do anything with them. With iLife you could splice together a movie of all your summer vacation pictures, add some music from iTunes and post it to the web or burn a DVD to give to your friends. With the iPhone the problem was that nobody liked the cell phones they had. I'm not sure what big problem they will try to solve with a tablet.

If it's just a bigger screen to watch movies on, well, I'd probably pass. If it's something to unleash the inner artist within me with some great drawing program, well, with my talent that program had better be insanely great. If it's some sort of screen that I take from room to room in my home office I may be interested. Think of a Doctor going from patient to patient, where each room has a waiting keyboard or base station. (There's a lot of stimulus money out there, and this could be a foray into the home office/small office market.)

Posted by: tokrueger | August 25, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Blu Ray DVD has high definition and if you want to cut Blu Ray DVD dvd, you can use this software: Blu-Ray DVD Ripper

Posted by: softwaresoda168 | August 26, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

Hey Rob,

I've been thinking about getting a Netbook for a while. I have a desktop and a working Laptop. My roommate has a netbook and carries it around and just seems fun. But everytime I get to the "checkout" page I get the "do I really need this device?" doubts. It's portable, its simple, its cheap... but is it REALLY neccesary?

I don't think I'd buy a tablet PC... other than artists or architechs... who really needs that?

Why don't you share your thoughts on netbooks? Review a few, provide feedback... I've learned to respect your opinions in this things since I started reading your column, so I'd love your input. My apologies if I missed the column where you already talked about this. :)

Posted by: JFSV | August 26, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Rob, nice link to the Balmer quote, but an even better one is the one from the Palm CEO saying, essentially, "what a joke.. you can't just leap into the cellphone business with no experience..."

For what it's worth, I loathe the idea of a larger iPod Touch (though I adore my iPT). I -- and many tech/IT guys I know -- clamor for a clamshell MB/MBP in the 10-12" size. I'll even accept something down to about 9" (hell, the 7" eee I have is awesome and I know Apple could improve on its weaknesses).

What I _REALLY_ want, however, is an update to the eMate (a working version sits next to me right now): Instant on, handwriting recognition, long battery life (with input for a cheapo solar panel, too!), sturdy and insanely portable. The eMate kicks the XO's butt for design and the 7" eee for keyboard useability; you KNOW Jobs could update it to really rock, now.

Bottom line: I don't really care HOW small it is (ok, sub 7" might be too small), but I DO want a physical keyboard and built-in screen protection!

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | August 26, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey, JFSV -- figure out what you're willing to drop, price-wise, on a netbook, add in another $100 to augment the RAM and then buy yourself whichever netbook feels the best under your fingers in typing tests at Best Buy (or the like).

And, if you get one with flash drive instead of hard drive, buy an 8-16gb SDHC card to expand your storage.

netbooks rock, esp if you're even mildly geeky and want to play with the endless linux iterations.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | August 26, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

(man, I wish there was an EDIT option, here)

AND... LinuxFormat's last issue was a review of Netbooks, with an obvious focus on those best for Linux.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | August 26, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that your predictions for the new Apple tablet or netbook are pretty accurate.

As for buying a netbook, I just don't see a netbook as a useful enough device to make the purchase, although I know several people who have them and use them regularly. I plan to stick with the laptop and the smartphone I have and save the price of a netbook for something else.

Posted by: juniordog | August 27, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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