Apple, the Boomer Tablet and the Matrix

iphone0.pngI have written here, here and here about Apple’s
inevitable assault on the Tablet market. What I hadn’t factored until
recently is how symbiotic such a device would be for Baby Boomers.

Why Baby Boomers? Well, for the same two reasons
that this demographic is unlikely to
embrace the palm-sized iPhone en masse.

One, such a bookish-sized tablet device – I’ll call
it the Boomer Tablet – would be tailor-made for home Wi-Fi setups, thereby
obviating the mobile access costs associated with iPhone, a significant barrier
for a generation that is programmed to keep mobile bills within a tight
spending range.

oldhippies.pngTwo, because a larger-form factor device would offer Boomers a bigger
viewing screen and “lifestyle” settings, like fatter keys and a more forgiving
keyboard to ease input, and wizard-like shortcuts to simplify recurring tasks.

This is key, because with the onset of age, Boomers’
motor skills have become less precise; their vision has become poorer; and
their eyes get tired easier.

As such, the premise of them plugging away on tiny keys
and peering into the tiny screen of a mobile device like iPhone/iPod touch is a
non-starter.

By contrast, the Boomer Tablet offers a superior input, viewing
and playback environment for accessing your iTunes library, personal media,
syndicated content services, iPhone Apps and presumably, Mac Apps; something
that the 70M+ Baby Boomers in the US who
are aged 53-73 would likely find compelling.

Moreover, if Apple put a video camera in the device –
not a stretch since they are doing it in the iPhone GS – it could make
video conferencing and VOIP ubiquitous in a relatively short time (Skype
already has a client for the iPhone/iPod touch). What better way to stay connected to distant loved ones?

As alluded to above, it seems logical that the Boomer
Tablet would either run legacy Macintosh applications in an unmodified fashion,
or perhaps support a new kind of ‘port-able’ Mac App built around the Cocoa programming framework and
powered by Apple’s forthcoming OS X upgrade, Snow Leopard.

What I am envisioning is a runtime layer designed to
offer formal convergence and partitioning paths between iPhone and Mac systems,
enabling application builders to make runtime design tradeoffs relative to a
coming Hardware Matrix of Apple device form-factors, a topic which I will get
to in a bit.

Contenders to the Boomer Tablet Throne

Before I ponder the Hardware Matrix, let’s first look at
the contenders to the Boomer Tablet market segment. It really underscores the
richness and fertile nature of this market, while providing a window into the
strategies of three really great companies (if interested, check out my post ‘Built to Thrive – The Standard Bearers
on Google, Apple and Amazon):

kindle.pngAmazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device: Amazon has built a physical device
that is focused on doing one job really well – reading e-books.
Moreover, Kindle leverages their strong position with print publishers, and of
note, Amazon has shown device-neutrality by coming out with a software-only
version of the Kindle. (I am currently
reading ‘Married to the Mouse
on my iPod touch. It delivers a solid user experience.)

This Switzerland-like positioning suggests that in the
long run, the hardware version of Kindle may be more about Amazon jump-starting
the e-book market than aspiring to be a hardware player.

That said, Amazon certainly has the assets (Marketplace,
Media Relationships, Cloud Services, Associates) and market credibility if they
ever wanted to position themselves as the more open alternative to the iPhone
Platform.

android.pngGoogle Android Netbook: In Android, Google has
built an open source OS, Middleware stack and SDK for building next-generation
mobile devices.

Moreover, Google has a decent track record of cultivating
ecosystems through open APIs, product evolution and stick-to-itiveness.

While a primary thrust of Android is outflanking the
iPhone gauntlet, a logical fork is the high volume, low-margin Netbook segment,
where Google assets like Search, Maps, Apps, Analytics and the forthcoming Wave
unified messaging platform could leverage their Chrome browser to collapse the
boundaries between desktop, web and mobile realms.

Moreover, as an open platform, Android has the potential
to nurture a hobbyist device market around robotics, information devices and
kit builders (see my post on Maker Faire
for more detail on this topic).

iPhone/iPod touch: The numbers speak for themselves (40M devices, 1B
downloads, 50K apps). But, beyond
the numbers, iPhone Platform is a game-changing system from a development,
distribution, monetization and user perspective, a conclusion supported by my
own direct experience – having written 20+ articles on the iPhone
Platform; owning an iPod touch; talking to a ton of iPhone App developers;
building an iPhone optimized web application (Twiddeo.com) and working
with another iPhone based startup (SquareConnect).

As noted earlier, the main downside to the current
iPhone/iPod touch, relative to the Boomer segment is the relatively small
form-factor.

iphone2.pngNeedless to say, a bigger form-factor would obviate these
limitations, while having the built in leverage of the iPhone Ecosystem.

The Hardware Matrix: LCD v. HCD

matrix.pngTake this one to the bank: the Hardware Matrix is coming.

What is the Matrix? Envision a world where the Mac, Apple
TV, iPhone, iPod touch, Boomer Tablet and iPhone Nano (rumored), respectively,
all leverage a common SDK, plug into the App Store and integrate with Mobile Me
(in addition to iTunes), and you understand that this implies all sorts of
hardware abstraction decisions.

No less, this implies Apple partitioning the platform
that supports these form-factors between device-specific functions, open
Mac-like layers (i.e., download apps from anywhere, build any kind of apps),
and managed/closed iPhone-like runtime layers (App Store is THE marketplace
with a singular SDK, formal APIs, and Apple GOVERNANCE policies).

Simply put, the Matrix presents a potential hornet’s nest
of technical, user experience and ecosystem decision, and as such this is Apple’s biggest Achilles heel in the next few
quarters
; namely,
how they execute forking (and no less important, de-forking) between
form-factors.

Connecting the dots, I believe that Snow Leopard is the
conduit OS where these things converge, but that’s a total guess, based on the
assumption that derivative form-factors are a given; that App Store and iPhone
SDK are the best practices approach with the biggest developer ecosystem; and
that Apple’s best way to win in the Mobile Broadband Era is by making their
products work together in a more than the sum of the parts fashion around a
common Mac OS X.

And as Cocoa has won out as the programming and human
interface model for Apple going forward, they have to already be preparing for
this fork.

Why not then grease the skids for all of those iPhone App
developers to suddenly wake up one morning and realize that they can sell into
the Mac market with very little extra work? Wouldn’t that be a nice upside surprise?

At the same time, you can see how realization of this
path brings with it all sorts of lowest common denominator vs. highest common
divisor trade-offs, which is why it’s such an Achilles Heel; albeit one with
tremendous upside.

Case in point, a recent post by The
Silicon Alley Insider looks at how hardware differences between 3G and 3GS will
potentially splinter the App Store.

This is why I would say to anyone who wonders why Apple
hasn’t jumped into the Tablet/Netbook market yet that it’s because there is a
LOT of work to get it right in terms of navigating the Matrix, let alone
getting the user experience right.

As to the end game, John Gruber of Daring Fireball
described it best in his ‘WWDC 2009 Wrap-Up‘:

The technical keynote has for as long as I can
remember been titled "Mac OS X State of the Union." This year
the title changed to "Core OS State of the Union."

Hence the symbiosis: Apple now has two full-fledged
developer platforms, Mac OS X and iPhone OS, derived from one core system…But
look at their vectors — their relative rates of growth — and ponder
how much longer until WWDC begins to feel like an iPhone developer conference
with a Mac developer track. My answer: next year.

With Apple, once exclusively the Mac Company, the only
constant is change.

Related Posts

  1. Start in the Middle: The "Jobs,""Outcomes" and "Constraints" Innovation Model
  2. Apple, TV and the Smart Connected Living Room
  3. iPhones, App Stores and Ecosystems
  4. Is the iPhone Platform Destined to
    Disrupt the Packaged Software Industry?
  5. Analysis: Apple WWDC Keynote – Punishing the Wizard, Part Two
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  • Al

    Just FYI Mark, Baby Boomers were all born after WW 2, which ended in late 1945.

    There isn’t one of them that has reached their 65th birthday yet.

  • freebie bean

    AI is correct. The so-called Boomer Generation ends around 1960. You conflated those born between wars I and II (the so-called Silent Generation) with the Baby Boomer Generation. What is not discussed is whether this group (53-73) still has the most disposible wealth to purchase a tablet. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generations)

  • larryp

    Pundits of the world…STFU! Besides getting the identity of the boomer cohort wildly wrong, the analysis presented here shows no more insight to this subject than you would get from the random person on the street.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @AI and freebie, you are indeed correct, and I knew it when I wrote the post. That said, as an umbrella concept I think boomer is more meaningful of a term to most people, and the age range, which is inspired by what I have seen with my parents and their friends, who are all in the mid-50s to early seventies range, is what inspired the post.

    As to the question of affordability, I think it depends, but in an earlier draft, one part of the piece was focused on how surprising it is (to me) to find this generation embracing their computers and internet based communications in such a big way.

    @larryp, I am glad that you were able to get that off your chest. :-)

  • Leska Emerald Adams

    Thank you for writing this thought-provoking article. It is one of the most substantial yet. I have been feeling the impending birth of the iTablet and one of its biggest attractions is the bigger screen for easier viewing.

    Mobile but end the squinting! And more power, possibilities, apps, and iChat.

    Some of my previous posts in other forums about the iTablet:

    The iTablet is coming, sooner rather than later. This is a certainty. And yes it will revolutionize computing once again.

    Been reading hints and leaks about it for months. Recently an Apple person clinched it by saying it won’t be just a media perusing device but a powerful way to create content and amazing productivity.

    

This will be really exciting. Hope Apple goes ahead and includes a robust feature set instead of dribbling what we all want out in yearly increments: it should come bang loaded busting out the door. 



    Apple will come out with an iTablet this year. It will be the gizmo that renders newspapers completely obsolete. It means instant connectivity and access to the Internet and cloud wherever and whenever anybody is. 



    This is a demographically necessary product, an iTablet that is big enough for the aging population to see web pages clearly and watch movies and play games without eye strain. 



    This will be THE ultimate portable PDA / computer / gaming device. It will incorporate all the perks of the iPhone and iPod Touch plus a better camera, videocam, videoconferencing, voice recognition, voice recording and control, voice-over, cut-n-paste, e-book, AppStore, iLife and iWorks, the whole shebang. 



    It will be far more than the sweet resurrection of the Newton and like the Newton it will be embraced by the medical community, scientists, business ppl and all those who want to stay connected and organized and keep everything easily accessible on the go at their fingertips. 



    The iTablet will be a major success, fun, extremely useful and a total gamechanger. 

It will have ports and be able to dock to sync with Macs, the iPhone, the AppleTV, and new exciting products.

    The user will have choice re tethering, carrier and subscription or no subscription depending on how he uses it.

    

I had been holding off on purchasing an iPhone because it’s simply too small, but succumbed last Saturday and love the iPhone, learning how to use it, exploring features. Been waiting for this iTablet. Hoping they don’t skimp on the premier but make it all-feature-rich and robust. 



    There will be over-the-shoulder pouches for the new iTablet with lots of organizer compartments and this thing will become indispensable to 95% of the world’s population. 

Yes the globe is entering a financial Depression but to survive this iTablet will become a necessity. $800 and will be more than worth every penny.

  • http://colemanfoley.blogspot.com Coleman

    One more contender to the boomer tablet throne–a clone of an iTablet running Android. Android will steadily get better, and Apple’s hardware can be copied, cancelling out Apple’s current superiority in those areas.
    As for the Mac universe you envision, there is less need for it every day as cheaper alternatives emerge. MobileMe is very beatable, and iTunes is just irrelevant in the era of web-based media consumption.

  • HammerChick

    1)Interesting ideas. Some kind of reasonably sized VoIP and media device is inevitable. Not sure it will be Apple though.

    2)RE: “how surprising it is (to me) to find this generation embracing their computers and internet based communications in such a big way.”
    Not that surprising to many of us Boomers. We built the Internet.

  • http://www.schellack.net/jonathan Schellack

    Anecdotal:
    Both my parents are baby-boomers (in their fifties).
    Both of them have iPhones and love them.
    That’s because (1) the phone is easy to use, (2) the pictures of their grandkids look great on the screen, and (3) they don’t want to carry around any other devices but the one, and certainly don’t want one that would be too big to fit in a purse/pocket.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @Leska, thanks for the comments. It sounds like you are as eager for such as device as I am.

    @Coleman, what will be interesting to see is how much Apple’s built in advantages of integrating hardware, software, service, tools, media, distribution/marketplace in a proprietary fashion play out as an “unfair advantage” and how much the market share splits along traditional PC lines, which obviously doesn’t favor Apple. This leads me to believe that such a device will tilt closer to the iPhone platform than the Mac platform (stick to form/factor/function where gravity is your friend, right?). As to the open standards web swallowing everything proprietary up, all that I can say is that we’ve been talking about this one since 94-95, and while it’s definitely getting closer to a reality, my gut says another five years of proprietary advantages, but obviously a total guess. As to obsolescence of iTunes, my only comment is that customers buy outcomes, not attributes/features so until an open solution comes along that delivers a superior user experience, iTunes ecosystem is pretty defensible, IMHO.

    @HammerChick, touche on the Boomer-cred. :-) What made me think about Tablet as a natural videophone is seeing how excited my parents get using Skype to see our kids, and what not. That alone could be a primary “job” for the device, and we already know that Apple is pushing video upload as a core differentiator (even though folks like Pure Digital created the segment).

    @Schellack, that is a good data point. I am approaching mid-forties, and input is a non-factor for me but I wonder at what point eyes strain and shaky hands becomes a factor. Your mileage may vary. To be clear, I am assuming that the use case for Tablet is for FIXED wireless – the device for living room, cafes, etc.

  • John O. McCoy

    I think you are on the right track, but I think it is even bigger. Look at Apple’s patents. “Glasses”” that give you a virtual 12 foot or so screen. Wild – maybe 3D.

    Apple always moves in the direction of ease of use, ways to control things never, or poorly controlled in the past (cell phones are just one of many things), AND which change our lives. Think back to before Apple. I do not live the way I did then. Things like communication were primative. Typing no longer requires carbon paper, typewriters, ribbons, little white strips to type over errors, having to type again many pages to insert a brillant idea the came to you at the last minute. And lots more. I think Mr. Jobs has some magical things in store for us that will further change the world.

    Job’s intentions have always been to change the world. Making money is mainly to facilitate those changes. Mostly, maybe every one else just wants to get rich.

  • http://www.julianchappa.blogspot.com Julián Chappa

    Macintosh in general and iPhone in particular are products of high quality, best performed and proved that the rest of similar devices.

    The success is logical and deserve. Mac OSX works very well, the design is excellent, easy to use and much better than Windows Vista and everything else manufactured by «Necrosoft», the company of the philanthropist Bill «H»ates.

    Julián Chappa
    http://www.julianchappa.blogspot.com

  • http://www.julianchappa.blogspot.com Julián Chappa

    Macintosh in general and iPhone in particular are products of high quality, best performed and proved that the rest of similar devices.

    The success is logical and deserve. Mac OSX works very well, the design is excellent, easy to use and much better than Windows Vista and everything else manufactured by «Necrosoft», the company of the philanthropist Bill «H»ates.

    Julián Chappa
    http://www.julianchappa.blogspot.com

  • bowerbird

    yawn. another “tablet is coming” story. so boring.
    why doesn’t it just _get_ here, for crying out loud.
    i’ve been waiting for it for about a _decade_ now.

    and we all know that none of the idiots in charge
    can build the thing correctly… except for steve…

    yet steve waits… and waits… and waits some more…

    c’mon steve. what are you waiting for? you’re mortal,
    as you surely must realize by now… so stop waiting…
    put the darn thing out already.

    -bowerbird

  • Harry Haller

    Why would you be surprised that the people who were doing solar energy, natural foods and the tech of the Whole Earth Catalog would be into computers?

    The Boomers were a reaction against the conforming Organization Men who preceded them.

  • http://www.alexandertolley.com Alex Tolley

    Tablet PCs have been touted at least since the slate computer made it’s debut around 1990. They have never made an impact and I seriously doubt that they will, at least in the near future.

    Everything you say about needing larger screens is true, except that you can get these screens with a real computer that is general purpose for about the same cost. Apple aims for the high design, high price segment, so we get the MacBook Air, which looks pretty but is extremely costly for what it is.

    Despite the design kudos for the iPhone (I have the original) it was seriously flawed in that it really needs a protective cover to prevent physical damage and accidental use. My daughter has gone through 2 iPhones which have deteriorated badly in her hands. I find that it is somewhat flaky and would counter that calling the iPhone a “quality” object is meeting a fairly low bar.

    I certainly don’t think the Kindle meets my criteria for a tablet computer; it is really a single purpose device that is relatively expensive and crippled by DRM restrictions. Furthermore, it’s size precludes the true mobile use that I want in a tablet – reading any content and using web applications.

    My guess for a form factor is that a rigid device will have to be no larger than a trade paperback book, but can fold open for a larger screen. But frankly I don’t think even this is all that attractive and what I await is the thin, flexible screens that can be rolled or folded for ease of carrying. At that point, the form factor will be whatever size of paper you are currently comfortable with, one that preferably folds just like paper so that it’s display size is variable and suitable for differing uses. The screen has to be color and the refresh rate much faster than
    current eInk technologies today, ideally enough to display video, but I could live with just static screens for a starting product. The device would use touch screen technology, much like the iPhone and also respond to a stylus (preferably any pointed object) for detail work.
    Finally teh price has to reflect the total functionality of the device. For a device that is no more than a web browser and local content reader, then it should be relatively inexpensive, certainly no more than a netbook and preferably with a path that drives it down to that of a throw away device, like calculators are today.

    All this suggests to me that tablets will remain niche items for at least five more years, probably ten. By that time someone will show how inexpensive eInk displays that will be printed in rolls for use in store displays and signage can be made to work as a more general purpose device and the age of dirt cheap, paper-like (or at least thin card) computing will have arrived.

  • bowerbird

    alex wants a wireless computer that sports a paper-like, high-res,
    full-color, super-responsive screen, and he wants it dirt-cheap…

    don’t we all? with an affordable house on the beach, and a pony.

    alex will be waiting for a very long time. especially on the pony.

    and it’s these totally unrealistic expectations that hold us up…

    in the meantime, the o.l.p.c. machine or the techcrunch tablet
    (both $300, unsubsidized) show us what can be possible now.

    heck, just make an iphone with a screen that’s twice as big…
    (eventually, alex’s daughter will learn how to respect the thing.)

    this is _not_ rocket-science, even if bill gates couldn’t do it.
    once jobs pulls it off, everyone will say that it was “obvious”.

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.alexandertolley.com Alex Tolley

    bowerbird: I’ll take a Tesla instead of a pony, if it’s available… ;)

    More seriously, to understand what works and what doesn’t, one only needs to examine history.

    For example, ealy laptops, er luggables, did not have a clamshell form factor. Yet the clam shell format was already evident in a far more ancient device..the book. It opened out to increase the reading space, allowing 2 page pictures if required. It had protective covers on each end to protect the pages. Hardback books are rarely carried around, except perhaps by students. The smaller, lighter ppb format however is – a size that fits men’s jack pockets. Disobey these features and tablet computers will remain a niche item. (Similar arguments apply to technologists who believe that people will wear clunky spectacles in the street that display data overlays).

    Books are cheap and can be affordably left on trains and lost. So far computers and phones cannot, so they cannot be risked as ubiquitous reading devices.

    The best large format display is the route map – which folds once or more to increase the display space many times from it’s form factor.

    Back to the iPhone, the Kindle and other ‘tablet’ computers. The iPhone meets the form factor requirement nicely at a cost of small screen size. Resolution limits are partially solved with magnification (although I wonder if a magnifying glass might be a viable solution too). A Kindle is too large for carrying around, it is more in the hard back form range. A netbook is starting to get closer.

    It should be obvious that while we can live with smaller keyboards, in a pinch, the rigidity of the screen is the primary limiting factor that defines form factor, secondarily is the screen resolution. The cost of the device is also defined by the screen, so even a limited function device like the Kindle is relatively expensive.

    Hence my claim that these devices will not become more than niche products unless they fit the requirements – correct form factor and cost. The only way I see this happening is with devices that have the required characteristics mentioned. If you can create a thin but rigid display that can fold open, then great. So far the best hope looks like some of the electronic printed screens. If continuous printing can be made to work well, then this will drive down costs (as it has for the cheapest solar PV devices) and the ubiquitous display that I have outlined will have arrived. That won’t be for a least five years, more likely ten. IMO, until then, the tablet experiments will continue with little success.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @John O. McCoy, I love your synopsis on how Apple thinks about solutions, and wholeheartedly agree. Btw, you might have seen my post on the 3D/VR angle wrt iPhone: 3D Glasses: Virtual Reality, Meet the iPhone (http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/06/iphone-virtual-reality.html).

    @Julián, thanks a bundle for the note.

    @bowerbird, before dissing others as idiots or railing on jobs, co to get on with it already, note that this stuff is hard. That Apple makes it look easy and obvious is a testament to a lot of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention the ability to creative derivative innovations from other attempts to solve same problem in market. I have blogged on the topic of why innovation is so hard, if interested: Innovation, Inevitability and Why R&D is So Hard (http://bit.ly/Y8kcH)

    @Harry Haller, why would I be surprised? Because I watch my parents, and in general, there is a generational gap. I have been in tech since 93 (first computer is TRS-80) and even with me, relative to my kids who see this as an extension of their arms, legs, eyes, there is a difference. On some level, most everyone reading O’Reilly is in a different bucket since this is somewhat of a self-selecting audience. That said, I love Boomers. So much of my culture, taste, music, movies, etc. has been shaped by them/you.

    @Alex Tolley, I appreciate the perspective. Many of the game changing innovations are obvious and at the same time, elusive, until someone nails it. iPhone is the offspring of a bunch of stillborn concept products and generally failed efforts to re-invent the wheel. Tablet is obvious, except for how to get the price point right, get the user experience right, get the software right, figure out the matrix relative to different form-factors, relative to media providers, etc. Any one point is easy to manage, but getting 200 of them to come together in a synchronous fashion relative to the aspirations of a targetable segment and a channel to sell it, is…HARD.

  • personne

    O’Reilly’s obsession with Apple is quite dull. MacOS today, for day to day use, is not significantly better than Windows XP, although it is fun to watch Mac users reel as their windows go flying around again, and they try to remember how to capture a screen (apple-command-alt-y?)

    Disclose your share holdings and let the rest of the world (the non obsessed) focus on the interesting things that are happening in general on products, not Apple’s newest copying of others’ innovations for a gated community.

  • bowerbird

    > @bowerbird, before dissing others as idiots or railing on
    > jobs, co to get on with it already, note that this stuff is hard.

    um, no, it’s not hard.

    apple did a good job with the iphone, but really, there was
    very little that was truly revolutionary about the design of it.

    making the screen the size of the whole thing meant that
    a touch-screen was required, and everything followed that.

    yet the phone industry up until that time was totally primitive.
    indeed, there was that early quote from the idiot head of palm
    about how it had taken them _years_ to figure out the phone,
    and that an upstart like apple wasn’t gonna just waltz in…

    yet that is exactly what apple did, and now the old _idiots_
    (and yes, that’s exactly what they are) are trying to catch up.
    now when you look at the clumsy interfaces they thrust on us,
    it’s laughable how stupid they were. yet the idiots-in-charge
    were giving us the same line you are, about how “hard” it was.
    sure it’s hard, if you’re an idiot who cares nothing about design,
    the interface, the experience of the end-user, or any of that…

    likewise, there’s nothing _difficult_ about doubling the size
    of the screen on the iphone. all the apps would still run the
    exact same way, just with the type and pictures twice as big.

    it’s also not difficult to predict that we will have a full range
    of iphone sizes, each one just a little bit bigger than the next,
    all the way up to 11*17 (for use in professions like architecture),
    with resolution-independence creating nice display throughout.

    we can even have clam-shells, like alex says, with 2 screens.

    this is possible _right_now_. there is nothing difficult about it.

    so where are these form-factors? how come no one makes ‘em?

    because once apple does it, no one will be moaning about
    getting 200 points to come together in synchronous fashion.

    if it was “hard”, a beginner like michael arrington couldn’t do it.
    but he seems to be doing as well as all the hardware geniuses…

    as for apps to put on the thing, we’ve only just begun to tap
    the possibilities engendered by a carry-everywhere machine.
    imagine how many ideas will have once we get such a tool…

    this isn’t “hard”. it’s a no-brainer. and if steve won’t do it,
    then i guess michael arrington will have to. but someone will.

    -bowerbird

  • personne

    Lots of people are already quite happy with Nokia’s N8xx tablet series (not their phones), and Archos pretty much invented this category. Granted, those companies will probably fumble emergence into the mass market.

    I cannot deny the iPhone is a slick, bar-raising device, but I don’t respect Apple for being a pre-internet company that probably wishes this amazing thing would go away and everyone would use their proprietary connectors and mobile.me, although it’s convenient for their media sales channels.

    They won the Apple II clone wars, then lost to PC standards. When ubiquitous USB won to their license-burdened firewire, they got revenge by bringing out the proprietary iPod/iPhone connector, which in sometimes out of date versions is everywhere now, blocking people with other devices from connecting. Imagine a road that’s “Optimized for Ford.”

    I think that’s their mentality. They don’t cultivate compatibility, they only concede it when they have to. They’re going to carry that forward with a new generation of proprietary, patented devices, when USB host could have been used instead. I am sure they only came out with the inter-operable A2DP and MMS kicking and screaming.

    So, less inter-compatibility, not more, and Apple in most ways has become the despised “don’t think different,” 1984 company. Unlike many other companies, Apple sends no messages about what they want to do outside the fully consumer experience. Even Bill Gates, in his own crass “I’ll buy a solution to the problem” way has more vision and shared purpose. I do not think companies should do charity work, but they should have a vision that is larger than their products.

    Aside from bringing slick to the masses, what are they really doing, except making things more channeled and proprietary. And people lap it up, focusing on the brand rather than the capability.

  • personne

    Lots of people are already quite happy with Nokia’s N8xx tablet series (not their phones), and Archos pretty much invented this category. Granted, those companies will probably fumble emergence into the mass market.

    I cannot deny the iPhone is a slick, bar-raising device, but I don’t respect Apple for being a pre-internet company that probably wishes this amazing thing would go away and everyone would use their proprietary connectors and mobile.me, although it’s convenient for their media sales channels.

    They won the Apple II clone wars, then lost to PC standards. When ubiquitous USB won to their license-burdened firewire, they got revenge by bringing out the proprietary iPod/iPhone connector, which in sometimes out of date versions is everywhere now, blocking people with other devices from connecting. Imagine a road that’s “Optimized for Ford.”

    I think that’s their mentality. They don’t cultivate compatibility, they only concede it when they have to. They’re going to carry that forward with a new generation of proprietary, patented devices, when USB host could have been used instead. I am sure they only came out with the inter-operable A2DP and MMS kicking and screaming.

    So, less inter-compatibility, not more, and Apple in most ways has become the despised “don’t think different,” 1984 company. Unlike many other companies, Apple sends no messages about what they want to do outside the fully consumer experience. Even Bill Gates, in his own crass “I’ll buy a solution to the problem” way has more vision and shared purpose. I do not think companies should do charity work, but they should have a vision that is larger than their products.

    Aside from bringing slick to the masses, what are they really doing, except making things more channeled and proprietary. And people lap it up, focusing on the brand rather than the capability.

  • http://www.alexandertolley.com Alex Tolley

    Mark: “but getting 200 of them to come together in a synchronous fashion relative to the aspirations of a targetable segment and a channel to sell it, is…HARD”

    I don’t think it is getting the design correct that is hard, but rather the process that most forms use to launch a new product that makes it hard to get it right.

    A typical product might come from an individual’s idea – often to meet some personal desire. In a corporate setting, a lot of people from various departments get involved, leading to the classic committee design of a camel. This is “design by least objection”. Then when the mediocre result is launched, no surprise, it does poorly and management then claim that it is hard to make a successful product.

    Apple is one of the relatively few companies that does not do this, mainly because of Jobs’ management style. The design of the iPod had a very strong central vision dictated by Jobs. That is the reason it was a design success.

    As bowerbird says, we could make a clam-shell device today – I’ve seen concepts from Frog Design that I would lust over – and those were at least 5 years old. Whether it would meet price and cost objectives I have no idea.

    The fact that the industry was almost completely caught unawares by the net book phenomenon speaks volumes about the group think that goes on. prior to the Asus eeePC there were laptops and their reduced size, often much pricier forms. Sony comes to mind here. Net books just destroyed the market for the pricey little laptops and forced laptop prices to fall. Note how quickly the industry complained about eroding margins as they scrambled to catch up.

    Unlike bowerbird, I do think the iPhone is an innovative device despite its obvious failings. The relatively large screen filling most of the form area really made the difference between browsing the web as a complete pain to do only if you had to, to halfway decent. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that a clam shell version would solve some of the remaining irritations too:

    1. Keyboard wouldn’t obscure text entry boxes.
    2. Larger reading area and less scrolling of documents.
    3. A protective cover for the display.

    I wouldn’t expect Apple to do this however, as I can see that current technology would make the display less aesthetically pleasing and therefore exclude this design. But someday this will be doable, I’m sure.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @ personne, you may not know this but it’s not like everyone writing O’Reilly posts are on O’Reilly payroll.

    I have been blogging on/off for O’Reilly for six years and never taken a nickel from them (although plenty of good will, which is priceless), but as to my own biases, I own two Macbooks and an iPod touch, I noted the developer tie-in in the article, and I should also note that I have sold a venture – me.com – to Apple.

    That said, I am a total pragmatic utilitarian. If Microsoft woke up tomorrow and built incredible products and services, I would be a path to their door.

    As to your assessment of Apple’s proprietary nature, I think that you are dead-on. Today, this is a huge advantage for them since the market innovation is taking place at the consumer level and flowing back to enterprise, whereas in past it flew in other direction. Consumers want products that work caveat free, and that is why they are flocking to iPhone/iPod touch.

    They don’t care about protocols, standards, etc. as they buy outcomes not attributes or features.

    Apple products rarely have every bell and whistle available on them, which confuses the heck out of attribute types who can point to “better” products with more functionality that sell worse, and then wrongly attribute it to smoke and mirrors.

    The question, which you allude to, is when the market requires being more open, and when the market favors commoditization for a better user experience, will Apple course correct or will they play the same hand that allowed Microsoft to beat them when being horizontal versus vertical was the winning hand in PC wars. My guess is that they will be smarter, but who really knows?

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Mark

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @bowerbird, I don’t have the benefit of knowing what you have actually built to qualify whether your perspective is borne of firsthand experience building products used by thousands, hundreds or thousands or millions of people; OR whether your perspective is knee jerk in nature but your reference to Arrington is instructive. Arrington posted on this concept back in July, 2008. It is not almost July 2009, and while I have heard talk of prototypes that is not the same as a product, to which I will pass along a quote from Federico Faggin.

    Faggin, whose critical contributions at Intel led to the game-changer that was/is the microprocessor once spoke to the ‘inevitability’ of certain innovations, noting that, “Because these inventions have a certain inevitability about them, the real contribution lies in making the idea actually work.”

    You may dismiss the distance between inevitability and execution as easy, but have done a bunch of startups (eight) and have sold a bunch of them (four) and having failed more than once, I have a healthier respect for it all than you do.

    Either way, I appreciate the counter-perspective, as the dialog is far would interesting with black and white than just one or the other.

    Have a good weekend.

    Mark

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @Alex Tolley, I think that we are on the same page as to the state of the world.

    I do think that each piece of the equation is specifically hard because of cost considerations and how much energy a company like Apple puts into how these things feel in your hands, coupled with the fact that these devices are usually multi-purpose so satisfying multiple jobs without ruining any one of them is non-trivial.

    Relative to frog design, et al, a friend of mine wrote a really good post on why Apple doesn’t build concept products (think: the Ford hydrogen concept car that never makes it to market but after the auto show, you want it yesterday).

    His point was that while in the design process you may have failed prototypes (how could you not?), concept products are an excuse for failure and the rigor that goes into building real products is a magnitude of order more complex, especially for a company that is as disciplined about maintaining high margins as Apple is.

    The final point which is non-obvious to people who have not worked in big, matrixed organizations, which gets to the rub of what you pointed to is that most big companies are set up around business units, enduser segments and the like, each with a ton of bodies incented to maximize the momentum, dollars and flow of their specific product or segment focus (Exhibit A: Yahoo).

    As a result, breakout products that require core technology bets, that cross traditional product line boundaries (phone + media device + itunes + tools/sdk) usually die in these companies since the orchestrated solution is at cross purposes with the understandably selfish goals of the individual units.

    That this factor is aggravated by lazy herd mentality is without question also true.

    In my career, the only company that navigated this land mine, which perhaps proves your point, was Microsoft in the days of Bill Gates.

    So maybe that argues that it takes the cult of one strong personality to make this type of alignment work, but I don’t think so (although it certainly doesn’t hurt).

    Any way you slice, it is at odds with the typical silo’d departmental approach of most big companies, which is illuminated by how few companies are game-changing innovative these days.

    Thanks a bundle for good nuggets.

    Mark

  • bowerbird

    > OR whether your perspective is knee jerk in nature

    i’ve been advocating the internet in my pocket for a decade.

    i advocated world-wide storage on a computer network of
    books, music, art, movies, tv, newspapers, and so on, some
    15 years before tim berners-lee did his part to make it reality,
    and then shawn fanning kicked it up to the appropriate level.

    i would’ve done it differently, working from the bottom-up
    instead of top-down, but i guess craig newmark showed us
    that that approach has a lot more power than anyone knew…

    so my perspective certainly cannot be called “knee jerk”…

    but in all of this, i was just doing straightforward application.
    i was ahead of my time, yeah, but so were lots of other people,
    and the vision that we shared was not a difficult one to see…
    anyone who read “network nation” — like i did — could have
    advocated and predicted the very same things, and likely did.
    (well, maybe not _anyone_. but i was a graduate student in
    social psychology, so i knew the power of “network effects”.)

    by the time the iphone was finally announced, it received
    tons of cheers at w.w.d.c., because it had _finally_ arrived,
    after being wished-and-hoped-for and anticipated for years.

    likewise the itablet. it’s been rumored for literally years now.
    why? because lots of ordinary people out here in the world
    can see how it would be tremendously useful to us in our life.

    heck, even bill gates saw the value of tablets, many years ago.
    he announced them, with great fanfare, and all kinds of hype.
    and if the hardware people would have built the darn things
    at the price that bill was talking about, the things would have
    _flown_ off the darn shelves, even with a horrid ms-interface.

    instead, the idiots brought in the product at _twice_ the price.
    so the units sat on the shelves, and the greedy idiots then said
    “there’s no demand for them. people don’t want them. sorry.”

    what a pile of steaming crap.

    so we had to wait for years, and years, and then more years,
    because steve wasn’t gonna bring out a piece of machinery
    that would’ve indicated that the sugar-water guy was right
    about the newton, because steve hated the sugar-water guy,
    for good reason, so he hated the newton, for no good reason.

    so we waited, with no one smart enough to make us happy…

    and we started jumping and salivating at every itablet rumor.
    the gadget blogs knew that every rumor was page-view gold.
    they knew there was a ton of demand for this type of machine.

    now, it’s pretty much inevitable that apple has to do an itablet.

    otherwise the netbooks will take over that corner of the universe.
    heck, the phone carriers are already subsidizing the darn things.
    of course, because neither the linux nerds nor the microsoft
    “engineers” nor the idiot phone carriers know how to do a darn
    usable interface, we’ll be stuck with a nightmare there, but the
    power of the internet in a clipboard form-factor is irresistible.
    (in fact, the “tablet” word is so played-out that we need a new
    term to get us excited, so feel free to use “clipboard computer”.)

    > but your reference to Arrington is instructive.
    > Arrington posted on this concept back in July, 2008.
    > It is not almost July 2009, and while I have heard
    > talk of prototypes that is not the same as a product

    i referred to arrington as “a beginner”. i made that very clear.

    and the point is that even a darn beginner can see the product,
    and lay out the design. you don’t need to be a big “visionary”…

    now sure, maybe palm had to hire away some apple people
    to clone the iphone into the pre. but they did it, didn’t they?
    and now it shouldn’t be hard to find _any_ engineers who can
    develop the machine right now, and do a reasonable job of it.

    would i rather have steve do it, given his proven track record?
    absolutely. of course. no doubt. but if he won’t do it, then
    i’ll be happy to have _anyone_ do it. because i want that tool.
    and so do millions of others out here… and we want it now…

    and what we don’t want is a bunch of whiners telling us that
    “it’s too hard…”

    lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    -bowerbird

  • Rob

    I’ve been wanting a tablet for about five years now…
    wireless
    built-in EVDO
    surf the web
    read books
    read magazines
    watch movies and TV
    listen to music
    email
    write code
    (the Godbox?)
    but it’s not a notebook! you don’t fold it open
    you carry it in your hand next to your side like… like a pad of paper
    it’s landscape when I watch video
    but the other way when I surf the web or read
    I can prop it up and use a bluetooth keyboard for input
    … but it also has a virtual keyboard like the iPhone
    I carry it under my arm at work to take notes at meetings, heck it can record the meeting
    I carry it around the house at home
    at night I sit up in bed and watch TV with it propped up against my legs while my wife sleeps
    I read the NY Times with it on the toilet in the morning
    I show everyone every photo in my collection (if they have that much time)
    where I go, it goes
    I almost forgot, it has an electronic filing system so that I can download, save, and index any newspaper or magazine article
    this would be a game changer
    I mean, I don’t know what anyone would do for an encore after this except pipe the internet straight into our brains
    (maybe that’s why Steve won’t do it, because there is no hardware “act” that could follow this)
    Steve,
    where is my tablet?
    where is my tablet?
    where is my tablet?
    where
    is
    my
    iTablet!

  • http://www.alexandertolley.com Alex Tolley

    Rob: “but it’s not a notebook! you don’t fold it open you carry it in your hand next to your side like… like a pad of paper”

    I’m sorry, I don’t get the reasoning about the non-folding open part. Why exactly is this important to you. Why is flipping a lid such a perceived negative exactly? If you had all the features that you asked for but in a form factor that looked like a notebook computer, why is this not enough?

  • bowerbird

    exactly, rob.

    and the idiots at the hardware companies keep telling us
    “there is no demand” for a machine like us. ridiculous…

    and let’s dismiss a few other sticking points, ok?

    first, the carry-everywhere aspect makes the wireless necessary,
    and that means you can soak us for a service plan that will help
    subsidize the cost of the thing. but take it a few steps farther…
    understand that there are tons of services you can now sell us,
    all of which let you make a _little_ money (do not get greedy!),
    so put your focus onto building in that long-run functionality
    (with its long-term income-stream), rather than one quick hit.
    believe me, there’s a ton of money packed in this form-factor.

    so much money, in fact, that you can afford to be magnanimous,
    and not just a sleazy capitalist. so do it. really. build in a library.
    (you know, _books_, which people _read_, and can _learn_from_.)
    provide discounted units to kids in the ghetto so they can escape.
    use the things to teach illiterate adults how to read. make people
    smarter, instead of playing to their lowest common denominator.
    glorify culture, and not vacuous celebrity. encourage spirituality.

    ok, sorry about that, for a minute, i though people might care
    about something other than their bank account. forgive me…
    (but do try it out, you capitalist pigs. you might actually like it!)

    anyway, let me get back to some practical advice here…

    the thing should have a retractable cord, like a vacuum cleaner.
    even considering a carry-everywhere form-factor like this one,
    most of the time, most people are within 15 feet of electricity…
    we will learn to plug in to an outlet whenever we can (especially
    if you build in an automobile-adaptor too), so battery-life does
    _not_ have to be a big show-stopper. plus there’s room in there
    for a much bigger battery, and a need because of the big screen,
    so put it in there, and don’t worry about the weight of the thing,
    because if it’s worthwhile enough, we will carry around 5 pounds.

    anyway, that’s enough for today…

    -bowerbird

    p.s. alex, flip the question: why is a _lid_ so important to you?

  • http://aui.posterous.com/ Scott Bryson

    How about the Sony UMPC for an example of design gone wild. Here you have an $1800 mini PC that you can barely read the Windows Vista screen on… and nobody buys when you can get similar features in other UMPC’s for $200-300. So what if you can run most of your Windows programs? What else would you do but browse the Net or perhaps run a few MS Office programs with it. If only Sony, who set the standard for tech product design before Apple, had done what the above people are asking for.

    Some people aren’t waiting around and running Hackintosh Netbooks with OSX. Twice now, with the Common Hardware Reference Platform (OS9 & Windows) and Bootcamp, Apple has had the chance to pirate all those Windows platforms out there and take market share. MS got rich on software, not hardware. Google might take the middle ground with its approach, as the Net experience is pretty much the same on any platform–actually XP Pro in Bootcamp on my 17″ MBP looks sharper and more readable than OSX. Too bad half the computer bandwidth goes to fighting malware or I might leave it in that OS!

    Wouldn’t it be great to be able to legitimately run OSX on the existing base of tablets and netbooks. But the iPhone/iPod experience is probably the future for the average user, eventually evolving into an appliance that doesn’t take a tech degree to set up a wireless network or configure a firewall–and Macs AREN’T as invulnerable as advertised!

    I’ve been tech savvy back to the days of BBS’s and yet it was a stretch to get the iPod to use my laptop’s Airport connection when using a hotel’s WIFI–why is that? Apple seems to at times to have lost its original Prime Directive. As wireless modem speeds increase we will eventually see true cloud computing where the end user will not have to configure anything but their login password. And sometimes it appears that Google will pick up the ball Apple seems to have dropped, or some newjack will first.

    PS.: Why don’t you take that Captcha below which is so hard for this boomer to read, and use it to help NASA solve their quest to decipher Werner Von Braun’s hand scribbled notes? It would probably be easier to post here…

  • http://www.alexandertolley.com Alex Tolley

    bowerbird: “alex, flip the question: why is a _lid_ so important to you?”

    I thought that I had explained this in my first post. Firstly, lids/covers are protective. They keep the reading surfaces from getting damaged and they prevent accidental use with “always on” devices. My iPhone has the same problems in this regard as the old Nokia phones – it is occasionally triggered while in my pocket. The protection of a cover has been the preferred form of the book for over 500 years. :) Why fight that much experience, unless you can cover the surface in a thin film of diamond to make it scratch resistant?

    I think that the coverless device makes most sense when it is kept indoors, on the desk or coffee table. It seems to make less sense when taken outside in the elements.

    Rob comemnted that he wants to carry it everywhere, but I don’t see people carrying netbooks or MacBook Air’s that way. Weight? Inconvenience? Other reasons why not?

    Finally never let us forget cultural issues of geeks. Star Trek communicators became the desired form factor after Motorola finally introduce the “Star Tac”, a cell phone with a flip cover. Star Trek (TNG?) introduced the tablet like PADD and I just wonder how much of the demand for a tablet is just wish fulfillment for this? We could easily find out simply by seeing if the demand for tablets is primarily on the boomer generation which was immersed in St, and relatively absent in the same generation that was not immersed in ST and the younger generation that missed it.

    If I had a tablet, and I admit to liking them, I would still buy a slipcase for it when taking it out.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @bowerbird, nice side rant on the deeds not greed sentiment.

    @Scott Bryson, thanks for the comment re forgetting prime directives. Part of me wonders how much of Apple’s thinking is to keep the market off balance (copy and paste, that’s what everyone expects, let’s table that one for a couple of years); how much is to force a specific focus in the market (e.g., in the case of copy/paste was it to force the dialog among developers/consumers on anything but blackberry comparisons as an input device); and how much is just an idiosyncratic company. Re captcha, I am regularly tripped up by the fuzzy text. ;-)

  • bowerbird

    alex said:
    > lids/covers are protective.

    iphone screens don’t need “protection”,
    not even those transparent sheet things.

    > they prevent accidental use with “always on” devices.

    there are better ways to prevent that.

    > My iPhone has the same problems in this regard
    > as the old Nokia phones – it is occasionally triggered
    > while in my pocket.

    mine too. but so what? it’s not a big deal.

    my girlfriend is often amused when my iphone
    has called her without me knowing it, and she
    catches me singing along to the car radio or
    calling out “hey baby!” to bikinis on the beach.

    > The protection of a cover has been
    > the preferred form of the book for over 500 years. :)

    this is not your father’s book. it’s a 21st-century tool.

    > Why fight that much experience, unless you can
    > cover the surface in a thin film of diamond
    > to make it scratch resistant?

    if you managed to scratch your iphone, you’re a person
    who is dedicated to destruction, who has a real talent…

    > I think that the coverless device makes most sense
    > when it is kept indoors, on the desk or coffee table.
    > It seems to make less sense when taken outside

    the clamshell design makes use of the machine clumsy.
    it often means two-handed hold instead of one-handed.
    have many clipboards have you ever seen with a cover?

    those covers that swivel back and lay flat on the base
    would be acceptable, but they also seem superfluous…

    > Rob comemnted that he wants to carry it everywhere,
    > but I don’t see people carrying netbooks or MacBook Air’s
    > that way. Weight? Inconvenience? Other reasons why not?

    other reasons. their owners think of that machine as
    “a computer”. they carry it somewhere when they need
    “a computer”. they pull it out when they need “a computer”.

    the machine i’m talking about is “a webpad communicator”.
    now, of course it’s a computer. but it’s defined by _usage_.
    it’s defined by its _apps_ and their _utility_ out in the world.
    it’ll be defined by the fact that it’s used constantly in real life.
    (if it’s not used constantly, there will be no need to carry it;
    the fact that it _is_ used constantly is why people carry it.)

    it’s an important distinction: it’s software, not hardware.

    of course we need to have the hardware. that’s the point.

    but the hardware alone is only necessary, not sufficient…

    it is the apps — the _functionality_ — that drive this tool.
    the hardware alone cannot make it a “must-carry” thing.
    it’s gotta be the usefulness to the person due to the apps.

    this is also what makes it valuable to the manufacturer,
    namely that those apps are a conduit to a _customer_…

    even if the machine is open to web apps — and it _must_
    be open, or no one will buy the thing — the “native” apps
    will be the ones that tend to get used the most, and that
    gives a competitive advantage to the businesses that are
    associated with those native apps. that’s how they get a
    direct connection to all the money inside that form-factor.

    this need for a synergy between hardware and software
    is why apple is the company that got to the space first…

    bill gates failed with his tablet initiative because microsoft
    doesn’t build the hardware that he needed to make it work.
    (and also because gates insisted on soaking the hardware
    companies for the exorbitant cost of the windows license;
    since bill wasn’t willing to budge any on his cut of the pie,
    the hardware people took their usual huge piece, and thus
    was the entire mission botched.)

    > Finally never let us forget cultural issues of geeks.

    i can assure you my desire for such a form-factor has
    absolutely nothing to do with star trek. nice try, though.

    > If I had a tablet, and I admit to liking them, I would
    > still buy a slipcase for it when taking it out.

    and once you discovered how clumsy it was to carry
    that slipcase separately, because the machine was
    not useful when it was located inside of it, you would
    ditch the slipcase.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    > Dell Is Working On Pocket Web Gadget
    > http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124630305634469553.html

    two days late, and two dollars short. pathetic and visionless.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    alex said:
    > lids/covers are protective.

    iphone screens don’t need “protection”,
    not even those transparent sheet things.

    > they prevent accidental use with “always on” devices.

    there are better ways to prevent that.

    > My iPhone has the same problems in this regard
    > as the old Nokia phones – it is occasionally triggered
    > while in my pocket.

    mine too. but so what? it’s not a big deal.

    my girlfriend is often amused when my iphone
    has called her without me knowing it, and she
    catches me singing along to the car radio or
    calling out “hey baby!” to bikinis on the beach.

    > The protection of a cover has been
    > the preferred form of the book for over 500 years. :)

    this is not your father’s book. it’s a 21st-century tool.

    > Why fight that much experience, unless you can
    > cover the surface in a thin film of diamond
    > to make it scratch resistant?

    if you managed to scratch your iphone, you’re a person
    who is dedicated to destruction, who has a real talent…

    > I think that the coverless device makes most sense
    > when it is kept indoors, on the desk or coffee table.
    > It seems to make less sense when taken outside

    the clamshell design makes use of the machine clumsy.
    it often means two-handed hold instead of one-handed.
    have many clipboards have you ever seen with a cover?

    those covers that swivel back and lay flat on the base
    would be acceptable, but they also seem superfluous…

    > Rob comemnted that he wants to carry it everywhere,
    > but I don’t see people carrying netbooks or MacBook Air’s
    > that way. Weight? Inconvenience? Other reasons why not?

    other reasons. their owners think of that machine as
    “a computer”. they carry it somewhere when they need
    “a computer”. they pull it out when they need “a computer”.

    the machine i’m talking about is “a webpad communicator”.
    now, of course it’s a computer. but it’s defined by _usage_.
    it’s defined by its _apps_ and their _utility_ out in the world…
    it’ll be defined by the fact that it’s used constantly in real life.
    (if it’s not used constantly, there will be no need to carry it.
    the fact that it _is_ used constantly is why people carry it.)

    this is an important distinction: it’s software, not hardware.

    of course we need to have the hardware. that’s the point.

    but the hardware alone is only necessary, not sufficient…

    it is the apps — the _functionality_ — that drive this tool…
    the hardware alone cannot make it a “must-carry” thing.
    it’s gotta be the usefulness to the person due to the apps.

    this is also what makes it valuable to the manufacturer,
    namely that those apps are a conduit to a _customer_…

    even if the machine is open to web apps — and it _must_
    be open, or no one will buy the thing — the “native” apps
    will be the ones that tend to get used the most, and that
    gives a competitive advantage to the businesses that are
    associated with those native apps. that’s how they get a
    direct connection to all the money inside that form-factor.

    > Finally never let us forget cultural issues of geeks.

    i can assure you my desire for such a form-factor has
    absolutely nothing to do with star trek. nice try, though.

    > If I had a tablet, and I admit to liking them, I would
    > still buy a slipcase for it when taking it out.

    and once you discovered how clumsy it was to carry
    that slipcase separately, because the machine was
    not useful when it was located inside of it, you would
    ditch the slipcase.

    -bowerbird

  • bowerbird

    why hasn’t my response to alex’s last question been posted?

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.themainestay.com Drew Travers

    Mark, as a “boomer” on the technical “long end” of the spectrum… born in 1944… and long past my tie-dye days (you could have left out the photo), I find it fascinating that so many of your readers think our generation is still “Lost in Space.” My wife and I (living in Belize) run our 4 Macs, 2 iPod Touches, 2 Kindles, 2 Airports, 5 parrots and 4 dogs with aplomb and grace. The need, once-in-a-while, to tweek the solitary Windows machine… to satisfy the national phone monopoly is galling… but not beyond our abilities. Maybe our early work in Maine with acoustical modems running experimental health record medical data to BBN in Cambridge served us well. We will wait patiently for the “boomer tablet” while happily “getting by” using our MacBook Pros.

  • Jay

    Regardless of what the years were when Boomers were born, the author just means to imply who anyone younger than 40 sees as old people. If you want to really upset someone call them old.

    That said, calling the hoped for Apple HD Tablet the Boomer Tablet is the kiss of death for this product in the mind of the Apple chic crowd.

    Not everything Apple does is adopted by the masses. I’ve long wished the crowd at CostCo’s and Walmart would adopt the all black clothes style that Steve Jobs has. We all know they need to.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @Drew, I think you put more significance into the thought process of the readers than they do themselves; boomers, as much as anything is schema; it’s an archetype for thinking of a type of user that is reflective of a big market. It’s not meant to suggest that every user of such and such age is blue, green and yellow. That said, I’d be interested in knowing whether the device as described is resonant for you and your wife personally or not?

    @Jay, when I called the device the boomer tablet, I was speaking euphemistically, not suggesting the product name. Also, to your point, while I show a certain amount of Apple bias in my thinking, there is no golden rule that Apple is the only company that could address the market, although I will underline that I believe that Apple, Google and Amazon have the best piece parts to serve up a tablet business that pushes lots of units AND actually makes money doing it.

  • bowerbird

    still wondering what happened to my reply to alex…

    -bowerbird

  • Patrick

    You make some valid points.

    Just having it allowing them to just point and click. Simple clean, allows the older generation to do more. Granted many have embraced the newer technology anyway.

    One must also question weather the elderly has wifi at home. Which again begs which generation. Boomers vs silent?

    Which leads to costs…. battery life, etc.

    A multimedia device like the iTablet would be more expensive and poorer battery life than something along the lines of a kindle. The kindle is a flat rate $360 an iTablet would be $600+ considering the iPhone’s $599 price.

    The kindles display undoubtedly uses E Ink electronic paper. i.e. zero battery use while reading. Resulting in smaller batteries, lighter devices, longer times between charges, and a cheaper device.

    Granted there is talk of OLED Screens for Apple which are far easier on batteries than LCD (but currently much more expensive?… eventually much cheaper.)

    Again on cost I like your iBook design suggesting no subscribtion fees with goals of wifi*, I am not sure netbooks will be big beyond corporate control yet. Yes its nice to have updates taken care of, and costs over 2 years are about the same, but not everyone upgrades every two years. Who wants to pay to use old technology, and what about those that upgrade early?

    (* go back to the actual cost of the iPhone without subscription fees=above=-yet costs are coming down, and it is suggested the the current cost to manufacture the iPhone is around $200)

    If you have a multimedia device any access to a 3g network would require a subscription i.e. cost, or be limited to wifi, and away from home many incur costs. (I have views on widespread wifi)

    But if the device was only books? What if amazon were to be the subscriber to 3g? $.40 of every book downloaded goes to ATT/Sprint/Verizon or whoever they choose. 1 million books makes the carrier $400,000, and they don’t have to worry about voice quality, PTSN phone numbers, billing, etc.

  • Patrick

    My last post mentioned widespread wifi. I felt it deserved its own post, and it relates to the iBook using wifi.

    I know many cities are starting to offer some form of wifi, many are no longer funding it, and allowing the companies running them to charge.

    But I wonder why the cable companies, and/or phone companies don’t do more?

    I mean MaBell has Dslams in nearly every neighborhood with fiber running into them, and DSL modems on nearly every block (now UVERSE so there is not a performance hit if others use it)

    Cable companies have even more bandwidth and cable modems (or boxes if they built it in) in nearly every house, plus those green fiber distribution points on every block.

    All they need is a wifi hot spot that any of there users can log into and they have them on every block. They would have wifi everywhere. But then that would hurt ATT wireless’s option to sell 3G wireless broadband, or would it help there image and cellular quality. wifi is not EVDO/3G. They already offer free hotspot access to wireless data, and DSL subscribers.

    And cable companies don’t have to protect there 3G networks hmmm great market opportunity.

  • Patrick

    Before anyone mentions it, I kinda merged the iBook vs. netbook, and didn’t explain it.

    So before anyone hits me with a 2×4 of negative words.

    I liked your push twards a full fledged independent design.

    vs. what many are starting to offer i.e. the net book.

    Of course it could access netbook features i.e. Google, corporate, carrier based.

    It probably would have to act as a thin client to access some more advanced features. As an iBook would not be as powerful as a desktop, yet its already essentially as powerful as most were 18 months ago. Yet with mobility, and still at a “reasonable” cost.

  • MimarSinan

    Some of us here wait for that baby for 20 years not (NOT kiddin’) ..
    Since we know of the limitations of “windows-mouse-clicks” from back 90’s and somehow it’ll be thrown away, but when?

    The idea that “tablets are doomed” because some guys had already tried and blowed it is nonsense.
    I count on the genius of Apple guys to come up with their version and reinvent the whole thing.

    Here is my wish list for the baby:
    • In addition to music and video via iTunes Store, I would like to buy ebooks/zinio etc.
    • I would like to throw it on my bed (like a book, aluminum unibody comes handy there) that means also no disk drive but only flash – who needs drive capacity anyway, when you’re Wi-Fied.
    • I Know that Steve doesn’t like stylus, but it’d be nice.
    • And most important of all, please give us the “InstantOn” capability.
    Oh, I can’t wait …

  • Andrew

    Now that we’ve heard about Chrome OS, maybe it’s time for version 2 of this post?

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com Mark Sigal

    @Andrew, I am not sure what I would have to say about Chrome, other than it’s scarce on details and confusing that Google would plan a second OS when they haven’t nailed a first (not to mention, market confusion, etc.), and as such, seemingly a shot across the bow of Microsoft to say, “directly attack our search domain and we’ll attack your OS domain.”

    Having been in this business almost 20 years, I have watched to many good tech companies (Lotus, Borland, Sun, Novell, Netscape) go down the tube doing frontal assaults on Microsoft and losing sight of innovating on their core businesses.

  • sovereignjohn

    I’m 57 and owned a computer forever. My first computer was a Commodore 64. I was on a Local BBS for years before Internet access came to our town. I bought a macbook in Nov07. I had an ipod for a couple years and it died on me. I’m looking for its replacement. I’m looking at the Courier as it folds to 7″. The iTablet that is 10″=12″ is too big to lug around. The Courier might be the best choice if it also is a media center and not just a business device.

  • ThePixelDoc

    Hi Boomer… I decided to take you up on the invitation you posted at AppleInsider and take a visit. You may regret that considering my long post :)

    First off, Kudos on a wonderful and informed article I must say… as well as the posted comments. I thought I’d share here a few of my opinions and insights re: the new iBook.

    Your argument specifically towards the BB’s I fully support, since I plan on purchasing one almost immediately for both my parents, and in-laws who are over 70.

    Case 1
    My parents have never owned a computer, however, my father has used one often at the local senior center and at the library, and has always asked me whether he should get one. He has become even more adamant over the last couple years, because he feels somewhat disconnected from society, not being able to access the web and opinion-places (such as yours) from home. Many times I have considered getting him a Mac. However, for what he wants, which is current information and staying on top of things… he’s basically an “information and entertainment consumer”, a full fledged Mac, or even a cheap PC is over-kill. A netbook with Linux might do, but still… more than he needs, and complexity which he surely doesn’t.

    As to my in laws, my mother-in-law is in the same boat as my father, and my father in-law is scared to death of his PC… literally scared to screw anything up, since he uses it mostly for a side-business as an accountant/tax-preparation specialist. I had also considered getting him a Mac, or something disconnected from his main computer, so he could feel more at ease using the Internet and small, family oriented apps for photos, etc.

    To both BB families in my immediate circle, an iTablet is just the device, and for the same reason as you mentioned, an iPhone or iTouch would not suffice due to size and assorted problems related to that.

    Case 2
    Now to the younger generation and market. First a quick story.

    About 3 years ago, I was at a party with a few kids, mostly boys, and a couple of girls, all age 6-9. The kids were all in the den, the boys playing video games on the PS3. Then one of the little girls, about 7 asked to play too. All the boys started to ridicule her, in that there was no way she would be able to figure it out. But she begged and pleaded, ‘til they gave her the console… and then proceeded to roll in laughter as she tried to manipulate the car in the game, by turning the device like a steering wheel. This was before the Wii had hit the market, and of course before he iPhone/iPod Touch. Just by observing that though, I knew there must be device, some day, that took instinctive common-sense in regards to the user interface… and/or input.

    Today we have the Wii. A mega-hit product directed specifically to “non-gamers”; and as we all know, the gaming platform afforded to the iPhone/Ipod Touch have and still are redefining hand-held gaming on any platform.

    Skipping to just a few months ago, I was at a friend’s visiting, and enjoying their 18-month old boy. “Mom” decided I should take a look at her MacBook for some things, and the little boy wanted to climb up on my lap to watch. I decided to show him some funny dog videos on YouTube. He saw me manipulate everything on the screen with the touchpad… and regardless, wanted to hit the arrow on the screen. I showed him the pad and how to tap it, and regardless of his happiness at making it run… he wanted to reach out and tap the screen. Another logical “human interface” moment to say the least.

    Regardless of tech wizards and pundits bleating out their repetitive, “there is no need for touch for serious work” and “where is the tactile feedback and physical keyboard”… future computing will do away with, or the need for it for the most part, to “communicate” and to “interact”. The KB will be with us for many years to come… but it will NOT be the main input device. Nor will the mouse, which Mr. Steve P. Jobs championed way back when.

    I firmly believe Apple and SJ he will do it again with this new device. and with a new way of interaction. Some pundits have already let the cat out of the bag, in that we will be “very surprised at how we interact with this new Apple device”.

    Just a thought: while speech is the most logical “input”, has anyone considered “intelligent text recognition” and “canned lined responses”. Let’s not forget that this is, for a better word, the “Text-n-Twitter Generation”, so interaction in shorthand, or short responses, could be a possibility. Multi-touch on intelligent steroids so-to-speak.

    Regardless, will this device be everything we ever dreamed of? I seriously doubt it… but I do think it will be a game-changing beginning. Apple and SJ have pulled this off 3 times already… who else can say that? This will be SJ’s crowning glory to an illustrious career as a “visionary”. Love him or hate him, you can’t take away the fact that he is the 21st century’s first “Henry Ford”… or actually, he would probably rather be in the company of “Darwin”.

    Exciting times once again, to daydream.

  • Mark Sigal

    @ThePixelDoc, thanks for the detailed thoughts. Regarding Case 1, one key point that makes the iPhone/iPod Touch user experience so much more palatable to newbies, young and old is that Apple has buried the complexities of file systems and folders, which gives casual users the ability to dive in free from fear of doing damage.

    By contrast on my iMac, I regularly grin and bear it as my youngest pulls files out of iPhoto, songs from iTunes, nested folders out of their container, etc.

    In fact, the one area I wish I could lock down is the ability to move apps between screens, as with a young child, you end up with some screens with one app, a general scattered mess.

    But the key, as you note is that the experience is intuitive, inviting and relatively consistent, such that the learning curve to get up and running is very low. I knew iPod Touch was going to be a huge success when I saw how quickly my four year old was able to play music, use youtube, view photos and dare I say, discover app store.

    Btw, John Gruber of Daring Fireball makes a cogent argument that Tablet will be to the MacBook what Macintosh was to Apple II. In the long run, it replaces it.

    Final thought on case two. I fully expect Apple to leverage multi-fingered touch such that we will see entirely new interaction/control schemas akin to the way people use multi-finger combos in sign language. In this case, the ‘sign’ is a man-to-machine interface for simplifying recurring tasks, think touch based automation, a body of workflow that apple has filed a bunch of patents around.

    In other words, while the Tablet is simplistically a bigger version of the iPod Touch, know that Apple is looking to leapfrog the PC, which in tandem with the matrix considerations covered in the post, makes this a Model T moment (stealing your analogy).

    Thanks again for the detailed thoughts.

    Mark