Monday, 18 January 2010

Lessons from Cupertino...

Apple has now confirmed their product launch event for January 27th. Their well-disciplined official leak engine would not have allowed city analysts to get so excited about the effect of a tablet-type product on their bottom line, without some truth in it. So the pundits are now focussed on the detailed specification rather than the business model (something I discussed in a xmas-eve post). But lessons of the past from the Cupertino company should give the best guide to what is likely to happen in terms of functions and specification.

First, Apple are very good at scheduling new systems software and hardware innovations. One such lesson here was the quiet inclusion video hardware in their computers which could support Open-CL well in advance of Snow Leopard's arrival which enabled the associated performance increase. Another lesson is how Apple demonstrate their investments in innovations that can be exploited more than once and how good they are at sweating their assets to the maximum.

So what could this mean for the tablet? Apple have not dabbled in web applications such as the suite of mail, calendar and address book at or the experimental for no reason. I think we will see more of these desktop class apps available through future hardware products. Second, Apple began a touchscreen revolution with iPhone; but more than this they have begun a gesture based revolution which many competitors have ignored. Copying the touchscreen is one thing but replacing hardware buttons with a touch sensitive button is missing the point. Gestures are the real innovation and these may graduate from the screen to free space. Thirdly, Apple already have facial recognition in iPhoto; what about using that to recognise who picks up the tablet, to avoid that clunky logon process? There has been a rumour running around that the device will have a steep learning curve... I think this refers to the device and not the users! Another rarely mentioned technology in both OSX and iPhone OS is a high quality speech engine. This is ripe for enriching the customer interaction experience. Apple will also want to exploit the millions of existing iTunes credit card accounts they hold by making it as simple to stream purchased content on to the new tablet as it is to add applications or buy music and videos.

Finally, I don't think talk of the release of iPhone OS 4.0 at the same time as the tablet is an accident. There will be some linkage or support in the new iPhone software for the new tablet. I don't see the tablet as an alternative to the iPhone and so some network sharing, syncing of apps and auto tethering for those who have both devices wouldn't be such a surprise. Steve Jobs launched iPhone as a phone, an iPod, and an internet communicator. I would see the tablet as companion to this communicator which brings the connected media experience to a whole new level.

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