In a little over 12 hours’ time Steve Jobs will unveil a touchscreen tablet tipped to be called the iPad, iSlate or iBook. Here’s what know so far about Apple’s Next Big Thing...
The rumour mill has been spinning into overdrive for months, but with the debut of Apple’s touchscreen tablet kicking off tomorrow at 5am Sydney time we’re seeing a sharper focus on the likely facts rather than speculative fiction. Here’s what we know so far.
One of the many rumoured concepts of the Apple tablet, coming soon to a trendy cafe near you...
Just what is it?
It’s pretty much common knowledge that Apple’s long-awaited touchscreen tablet is more than just an ebook reader and perhaps even more than “an iPhone on steroids”, as some have called it – although it’s said to resemble a bigger flatter iPhone “which has been hit with a rolling pin”.
This alleged spy shot of the Apple tablet surfed in recent days...
Yes, it will support digital versions of books, magazines and newspapers – Apple and the publishing industry clearly hope that the tablet will do for print what the iPod did for music. Apple is also expected to have the education market in its sights.
But the device will also support music and videos, play games, do email and surf the Web. Indications are that it will be carefully positioned between the iPhone and MacBook as a complementary or companion device with broad rather than specialist usage – in short, Apple’s own take on the netbook but sans keyboard.
What will it be called?
Shell companies believed to be associated with Apple have been registering iSlate and iPad as trademarks in countries around the world, while Apple is also on record as holding the iSlate.com domain name.
Registrations for the iPad name have been especially active in recent weeks, indicating a ramp-up to tomorrow’s launch.
It should be noted that the iPad.com.au domain was registered through Melbourne IT by ‘iPad Developments’, the contact for which is listed as David Garry & Associates
– a South Australian company which promotes itself as “attending to the registration of over 30,000 company, business names, domain names (and) trademarks.”
So iPad is firming up as the front-runner – especially due to the obvious connection to Apple’s other hero product, the iPod.
At the same time, Apple could also resurrect the iBook brand which belonged to its consumer notebooks between 1999 and 2005 prior to the arrival of the MacBook.
Will the iPad (or whatever Apple calls it) include desktop-friendly dockability?
The tech inside the tablet
Early reports suggested that Apple was snapping up both 7 inch and 10 inch panels, leading to speculation that two
models were on the menu. Speculation has now settled on a 10 inch slate as the most likely form factor.
The screen is expected to standard LED technology rather than the OLED panels stating to appear on smartphones, after an industry analyst reported his belief that there simply wasn’t sufficient manufacturing capacity to produce enough 10 inch OLED screens to suit Apple’s push.
The OS is expected to be based on the same OS X core as the iPhone but with extensions to scale up to the tablet’s larger size and functionality. The device will therefore run iPhone apps. In order to give developers time to retool their apps for the tablet, Jobs is also expected to use tomorrow’s keynote to announce iPhone OS 4.0 – although the OS could be given another less product-specific name – and to release updated development tools.
The tablet’s powerplant is tipped to be a Cortex A-class ARM processor, which is an advanced version of the chip inside the iPhone and could conceivably support multitasking.
Wireless connectivity is expected to include Wi-Fi and 3G, although 3G might be lacking from a lower-cost base model.
Will the tablet sport an iPhone-esque touchscreen keypad (above), partnered with an
iPod-derivative virtual scroll wheel (below) or something more advanced?
The missing piece of the puzzle is the UI. It’s not expected to be a version of the iPhone interface upsized for a 10 inch screen, but one that’s optimised for both the larger screen and the device’s very different functionality and with an all-new user input mechanism that’s said to go way beyond the iPhone’s virtual QWERY keyboard.
How much will it cost, and when will we get it?
Those are just some of the questions which will be answered only after tomorrow’s event. Speculation has pegged the price anywhere from US$500 to US$1000, but given the likely tie-in with 3G carriers we could also see the tablet subsidised through a 24-month contract.
The ‘good oil’ on the public release of the product is suggesting April. Whatever the date, we’re expecting it will enjoy a simultaneous global launch in several countries rather than an initial US-only release.
Our reasoning behind this is that Apple Australia has already flown several high-profile journalists from mainstream outlets – including The Sydney Morning Herald’s online editor Stephen Hutcheon, The Daily Telegraph’s technology editor Stephen Fenech and Channel 7’s ‘Gagdet Guy’ Peter Blasina – to San Francisco for tomorrow’s launch. We’re thinking that this PR investment makes the most sense if the tablet is to be released in Australia sooner
rather than later.
Click back tomorrow for APC’s fluff-free ‘need to know’ report on the tablet and whatever else Jobs has up his sleeve.