Unless you've been living under an extremely large rock the past few days, you'll know that Apple, purveyor of all things shiny, has announced a press conference on Wednesday January 27. I'll fully admit, I'm a pretty die hard Mac fan. Life wouldn't be the same without my Macbook Pro and iPhone, and thanks to my evangelic Apple praise, my girlfriend also went out and got herself a Macbook and iPhone. She's never looked back.
When Apple put out the press release for next week's event, I was more excited than a schoolgirl in a sweet shop full of Hello Kitty bags and Johnny Depp lookalikes. The invite alone was enough to get every tech journalist in the land worked up into a frenzy. The consensus is of course, that Apple will finally be unveiling a long-rumoured tablet device. What will this mythical tablet look like? How big will the screen be? Will it run iPhone OS or full OS X? How much is it going to cost?
A quick glance at the big gadget blogs just shows how high expectations are for this device. Every scrap of information is being analysed in such depth, you would think this thing has the cure for cancer. There is talk from the Wall Street Journal about eBooks for the tablet, The Guardian is reporting the device will be subsidised by mobile networks, and Engadget has some unconfirmed spy shots of the front cover of the device--And we're still not sure this thing even exists yet!
However, the question I've been asking myself the most is, do I need one? Probably not. After all, Windows tablet PCs have existed for a long time, and they've never really found a home outside of niche applications in medicine and logistics, where the form factor makes sense. That is unless Apple have some kind of killer app for the thing, one that is going to open the wallets and minds of consumers across the globe. I don't see pre-packaged magazines and newspapers as the answer, after all, why pay for something I can read for free on a web browser? eBooks? Maybe. But in all likelihood we're going to see an LCD screen on this thing, rather than the E-Ink screens that make eReaders like the Kindle so great for reading on. Sure it'll probably play music, surf the internet, and play videos, but is that enough to move people away from their iPhones?
So what's the answer? I believe the answer lies in three things: Graphic design, music production, and gaming. Any graphic designer worth their salt will tell you how great it is to be able to draw directly onto a screen, rather than via a graphics tablet. Devices such as Wacom's Cintiq cover this market rather well, but cost thousands of dollars. A tablet priced anywhere below $750 would be killer for that market, depending on what software can be run on it. How about a dynamic, multi-touch, MIDI controller which you could plug straight into your DAW such as Logic? Sign me up now!
And then of course, there's gaming. While Apple has never been a big player in the games market, the launch of the iPhone and App Store changed all that. Suddenly Apple had a viable game platform, one which sported unique features such as multi-touch, motion sensors, and an entirely digital distribution platform--something hasn't worked quite as well for Sony's PSP Go. Yes, the games aren't exactly Gears of War, but I've had countless hours of fun playing Peggle, Doodle Jump, and MiniGore, to name but a few. The recent release of China Town Wars, the highest rated DS game of all time, only cements its reputation a fully fledged gaming device. Imagine if the tablet had an even higher graphics capability than the iPhone, and a much larger screen. Gaming like that seen at the beginning of the RUSE trailer below, could become a reality, albeit on a smaller scale.
So yes, I'm excited. But this is all speculation, for all we know next week apple could unveil some iPod socks. Remember that? For now, I'm going to get back to shooting angels with my shoes and destroying god herself with my hair in Bayonetta. So awesome. Mark