As you may have heard, Apple is expected to announce a new tablet tomorrow (January 27th). All the information so far has been based on rumors, but everyone seems pretty sure that the tablet (or whatever they end up calling it) will basically look like a larger iPod touch and it will work like a netbook. Several people have asked me why it's getting so much hype, so I thought I'd post my thoughts here.
First I should say, I hate Apple. This post isn't about why I'm going to buy the tablet because there's absolutely no way I'm ever going to buy anything from Apple. The fact that I won't buy one doesn't mean I can't be excited. For example, I don't own an iphone, but I know that the popularity of the iphone had a lot to do with my Palm Pre being so excellent.
Anyway, there are two main things that I like about the idea of an Apple tablet.
#1 - Bridging the gap between phones and computers
Despite how advanced smartphones are getting, most people still don't realize that phones and computers are the same thing, just with different cases. As soon as the public is ready to accept that an iphone isn't a phone (it's a tiny computer), that will open up the floodgates for innovation, and it will hopefully put an end to a lot of stupid mobile trends (like 99 cent apps, no one buys 99 cent apps for their mac or pc).
In case you haven't been paying attention for the past decade, the application platform of the future is the web browser. Unfortunately, the general public isn't ready to accept that their phones can run web apps just like their computers. No one demands a facebook app that runs on Windows 7, so why do we need one that runs on the iphone? Supporting mobile applications (rather than mobile web applications) is slowing down development in almost every area. The Apple tablet has the ability to change the way people think of mobile operating systems because it looks like a big phone, but it works like a small computer.
#2 - Exploring new user interfaces
For as long as I've been aware of computers, the only real way to interact with them has been through a keyboard or mouse. This has really narrowed the way designers and users look at software, because we can't think of a world where we can experience software in a more natural way. The technology in movies like minority report seem like science fiction, but they really don't have to. The limiting factor isn't our ability to write the software, it's our hardware's ability to interpret what we want to do with software.
I don't expect the Apple tablet to do anything too revolutionary, but it will at least start to open everyones minds to the possibility that a keyboard and mouse aren't necessary. My guess is that when other companies see the Apple tablet, they'll start trying to come up with their own weird systems for interacting with computers. The keyboard/mouse system has needed some competition for years now, and the tablet might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
So those are the two reasons I'm excited for Apple's announcement tomorrow. What do you think?
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