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  • The Apple Tablet

    Posted by David Foster on January 27th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Anybody want to talk about the impact of this product? I think the question of how it will affect the publishing industry is particularly interesting…see this and this, for example…but there are probably a lot of other companies and industries that this thing has the potential to help or harm IF it is successful, which of course isn’t a foregone conclusion given the fate of earlier tablets.

    (Disclosure: I’m an Apple shareholder)

    Thoughts?

     

    19 Responses to “The Apple Tablet”

    1. Fat Man Says:

      Remember the Newton?

      It is like sports talk radio discussing the upcoming game. We will see what we will see.

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      I think the biggest long term effect might be reshaping the entire software industries business model.

      The app store model for the iPhone was quietly revolutionary especially now that Google has copied it for the Android platform. It created a system in which small developers could make money for the first time since the early 90′s. I prowl the iPhone programming boards and it is obvious that most iPhone programmers are people who never worked on Apple platforms before. The app store business model drew them in.

      If the iTablet expands the app store model to larger and more diverse applications than the iPhone we could see the model spread to all Macs and eventually it would be copied by Microsoft and even Linux. Instead of an industry dominated by a few big players, we might see a return the Wild West days we saw in the 80′s when solid return on investment allowed small developers with good ideas prosper.

      (Disclosure: I am incredibly invested in Apple’s succes.)

    3. david foster Says:

      Shannon…entrepreneur/VC Paul Graham thinks Apple is screwing up big time by requiring a long review & approval process for new versions of AppStore applications.

      How much of an issue do you think this is?

    4. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown Says:

      David…I’m not so sure about Graham’s argument.

      First, the review process and control that Apple has in place, while seemingly onerous to developers, protects the experience and the security of the iPhones. I have little doubt that the more free-for-all nature of the Google app store approach on Android will result in some instability and insecurity, which is not desirable on a phone.

      Second, I find the idea that developers are souring on Apple to be unconcerning. As long as enough people are using the iPhone developers will develop for it. Maybe in the future apps will be released on Android before the iPhone, but for most users waiting a couple weeks or month won’t be that big a deal.

      Lastly, it really boils down to the age old trade-off between functionality and security and innovation and stability. The Apple ecosystem is more secure and stable, which is what most people want in a phone or even a tablet. Maybe Android will have all kinds of apps developed, but they will only become trusted after trial and error, but the model may cause problems along the way.

    5. david foster Says:

      FLG…Graham is making the argument that the review cycles cause a *reduction* in the overall level of quality, by delaying bug fixes and causing these fixes (as well as actual enhancements) to be batched rather than released as available.

      This is in line with the view he expressed in his book Hackers & Painters, which is that hosted applications can enable a much better software development/release process than the traditional one.

      It might make sense for Apple to have a couple of categories of developers, one being “trusted” developers who have demonstrated that their products have sufficient quality to flow through directly without Apple review and the others being customer-use-at-your-own-risk.

    6. david foster Says:

      Here it is….$499 base price.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      Well, a big part of the problem was that Apple was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of apps submitted. Nobody saw that coming.

      On the whole, however, I think Apple (and now Google to a lesser extent) vetting apps is important and key to their success.

      (1) The iPhone is not a very small laptop and the rules that apply to laptop/desktop development don’t apply. If an app prevents someone making a critical call, people can die. Everything else on the iPhone must be sacrifice to make sure the phone capability works. Vetting and sandboxing apps is the only way to ensure that.

      (2) Apple distributes the software and therefore has some liability attached to them. Imagine if a box store sold a product that stole credit card numbers, the box store would most likely get sued and Apple is in the same boat.

      (3) The iPhone handles a lot of financial transaction, possibly a lot more than laptop/desktop. Apple also provides developers with an in app store where they can sell digital products through the Apple. That system’s integrity must be maintained.

      (4) iPhone developers are not large companies that can be held accountable. You sign up for iPhone development online with nothing but a credit card and $99 dollars. The apps are submitted electronically. The only real way to hold developers accountable is by controlling the distribution of the apps themselves.

      (5) Grisham’s law works for software as well. The parallel would be the great console implosion of the early 80′s which was caused by a glut of crappy games. The console makers thought that the shear numbers of games would make their platforms succeed but in the end buyers gave up on all games because they ended up buying a large number of trash titles for every good one they found. The iPhone could have suffered the same fate. Having even a minimal review takes out 80% of the crap.

      (6) A high branded product like the iPhone is way more damaged by a major failure than some relatively anonymous brand so quality control is a big deal for Apple. Other manufactures can just change product names or rename the company if they fail big. Apple cannot. One big failure could destroy the entire brand. To date, there has been no know real-world security exploits on Apple managed iPhones but there have been two or three on jailbroken ones. Compare that to the open PC laptop/desktop experience.

      Apple has prospered in the last few years by defying conventional wisdom. I think the more you delve into the iPhone the better the decisions about the app store look.

    8. david foster Says:

      Apple has been pursuing a strategy of vertical integration/tight coupling of hardware and software, which was of course *not* the conventional wisdom 10 years ago (when everyone though they were crazy to not unbunded the operating system)…the app sourcing policy is consistent with that.

      I call it an app *sourcing* policy because I suspect that Apple, in their heart of hearts, does not view these apps as *products* of another vendor but as *components* of their own vendor, analogously to a battery or a touch screen.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      Having looked at the iPad and its price points I think it might be a winner. However, I don’t think easy portability e.g. the flight to Tokyo, will be its major draw.

      We’ve been thinking about getting a laptop for my spouse but my spouse doesn’t really need one for work. What we really wanted was another laptop for websurfing. It seemed overkill to get another Macbook just for that but the netbooks were slow and flimsy with poor quality screens.

      The iPad would solve our dilemma especially if we get the cheaper wifi only version. That makes it about the price of a netbook without the subsidy of a phone plan. We have our laptop for anything requiring a lot of typing and the iPad for all the reading and watching.

      Reading/watching on line is becoming a major part of what we use computers for. Toss in games and the iPad could have a very solid niche as a, well, not a secondary computer but more of a 1.5-adary computer. It would be more like an adjunct of your main computer/s that would specialize in one of the computer’s main task. It will sync with the full computers, your iPhone and online services so for the functions it performs, it won’t feel any different then using those devices directly e.g. all your browser will have all your bookmarks.

      I think most iPads will end up around the house and people will use them in the increasing number of computing task that don’t require a lot of input.

    10. Mark Says:

      I could see getting one of these for my parents who are in their late 60s and currently do not own a computer. This seems so simple and intuitive, they might actually be able to use it for email and basic web surfing. Even basic computers are “too confusing/scary” for them. If only there was better AT&T coverage – they wouldn’t have to worry about an internet connection either. It would be perfect since they travel around the country with RV in tow – it would just work and they could get to their email anywhere.

    11. TMLutas Says:

      One thing that has flown under the radar on this product is the impact the NeXT derived XCode developer environment has. It’s under the hood of ease in compiling for multiple chips. This means that if there’s a hardware advance, Apple can take advantage of faster than just about anybody.

      If the A4 chip is really a step ahead as Apple claims, nobody else can use them as they’re an Apple owned product (a good reason why they bought that fabless chip house PA Semi in 2008). Those looking to chase Apple will have to both wait for hardware to catch up and possibly compilers that take advantage of that new hardware. Then again, the superiority of the A4 may just be part of Steve’s reality distortion field. We’ll find out soon enough.

      When an unlocked 3G one drops below $500, I think that we’re going to see a lot of use in field data collection. I can see later generation usage with a camera, a bar code scanner, an integrated credit card swipe as well. For now, I’m thinking to try and integrate it in to my wife’s medical practice. At worst, she’ll be able to remote in to her laptop and not have to carry it into a patient’s room. That weight savings by itself makes it more useful than a laptop.

    12. david foster Says:

      Hopefully, it can easily import and display PDFs. For long documents (10-Ks, etc) there has really been no good solution…it’s a pain in the neck to read them on-line, but it’s a worse pain in the neck to print them out.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      David Foster,

      Hopefully, it can easily import and display PDFs.

      The iPhone can already do this so the iPad can as well. It’s just not particularly useful on the iPhone save in the extreme.

    14. Lexington Green Says:

      Could you make a touch screen function that put a more or less normal sized keyboard on the screen and allowed you to type on the touch screen, then make the keyboard go away when you were done with it? If would be cool if you could turn the iPad sideways, type your email responses — or blog from it! — then go back to doing whatever else it is you do with it.

    15. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      Could you make a touch screen function that put a more or less normal sized keyboard on the screen…

      Yes, it does that. It’s a keyboard about the size of laptop with an equivalent screen. I’m not sure how easy it is to use but I found the iPhone’s keyboard easier to use than hardware ones.

      It also supports an external ordinary keyboard and well as an external monitor.

    16. Stan Says:

      According to the specs on the apple site, the iPad can display pdf, doc, docx, pp, ppx, xls, xlsx. In the demo and in the presentation Steve Jobs was touch typing on the on screen keyboard. The keyboard pops up and goes away just like in the iPhone, in both portrait and landscape mode. An option is a plug in keyboard and the Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboard. The thing I caught that hasn’t really been mentioned is the 10 hr battery life WHILE PLAYING VIDEO! What laptop can come close to that? There are optional dongles to talk to USB devices and SD cards.

      I was in an Apple store last week and Apple stores do not have cash registers/scanners/checkout lanes. Your Apple assistant has an iPod touch with a card swipe slot and a bar code scanner. He scans your item, swipes your card, and has you write your signature with your finger on the iPod Touch screen and then emails you your receipt! He said that Apple developed the SW and contracted the HW for the scanner( It looks like a fat iPod Touch case with a slot and a window), and that the scanner HW was available.

      Apple is thinking way ahead of everyone else.

    17. warmi Says:

      “One thing that has flown under the radar on this product is the impact the NeXT derived XCode developer environment has. It’s under the hood of ease in compiling for multiple chips. This means that if there’s a hardware advance, Apple can take advantage of faster than just about anybody.”

      XCode iPhone integration is decent but nothing really revolutionary … I was able to deploy apps in similar fashion with VS Embedded back in 2002.

      “If the A4 chip is really a step ahead as Apple claims, nobody else can use them as they’re an Apple owned product (a good reason why they bought that fabless chip house PA Semi in 2008). Those looking to chase Apple will have to both wait for hardware to catch up and possibly compilers that take advantage of that new hardware. Then again, the superiority of the A4 may just be part of Steve’s reality distortion field. We’ll find out soon enough.”

      The A4 chips just another soc running some sort of ARM core ( or perhaps multi core ) – most likely Cortex 8 or 9 – we don’t know for sure at the moment but given that it will run existing iPhone apps out of the box, it cannot be anything else but ARM.

    18. PenGun Says:

      It’s a collar. Go ahead put it on. Steve’s goal is content aggregation and this is just another step in that direction.

      The ARM that powers it is probably not dual core as they surely would have said so. That means the coming, oh, 5 or 6 competitors, some available now, will generally be stronger.

      Some nice hardware out there if you want a tablet.

    19. PenGun Says:

      TM

      X-Code uses GCC for it’s compiler. One of my favorite things as I’ve been building my own stuff for nearly 20 years. It will target almost ant hardware ever built and will happily cross compile, assuming relevant libs etc on almost anything to almost anything.

      As GCC is GPL we will need any changes needed to target the amazing mystery A4, … not, to be given back to GCC for us all to use as we see fit.

      Oh yeah $30 for a USB port from that 30 pin … thing. What a ripoff.