The Tablet: Predicting the Unpredictable

Speculation is running rampant.  What will Apple present next?

I propose that Apple doesn't even know what they are about to unleash.

Consider the iPhone.  Originally, it had a handful of Apple-provided apps, with no third party options (aside from Google Maps, YouTube, etc.)  Users told Apple where to go, and they actually listened.  And that was the best decision they could have made.

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I maintain that Apple is providing a new platform that will take us places even Steve Jobs can't predict.

Sure, the pending Apple Tablet (iSlate?) will be a great eBook reader, to compete with Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.  But what interests me is how the device will be used in ways we can't imagine.  I've taken a stab at some examples that I haven't seen discussed much, if at all.  How do you think such a device could be used?

Gaming.  Right now, kids bundle up their Xboxes, PS3's, and PCs to conduct LAN parties.  Imagine tossing your tablet in your backpack and having tablet parties in the cafeteria, the dorm, the park, etc.  You could interact with users around you, or around the world.  The touchscreen interface of the iPhone initially posed a problem for gamers used to a joystick or diamond pad.  But the development community found new ways to interact with the iPhone, using swipes and the accelerometer, rendering joysticks almost 'quaint'.  If the iPhone has Nintendo and Sony worried about their portable gaming devices, imagine what a touchscreen-based console-to-go would mean!  Not to mention the lower cost of apps.

Navigation.  Bigger is better, and when we went from hardcopy maps, AAA TripTiks and Thomas' guides to turn-by-turn spoken directions and 3-inch GPS units, something was lost.  We follow the optimal path, as dictated by a computer, with no deviation.  A 10" navigation device will tell you what is just outside of your most direct path, but perhaps worth a detour.  "Hey, we're only 10 minutes away from the world's largest ball of yarn?!"  A tablet-based navigation system could make exploring fun.

eBooks.  Everyone talks about emulating hardcopy novels, magazines, and textbooks.  But that is short-sighted. People will identify too many tradeoffs versus the portability of paper.  Instead, imagine books that come to life, through video, audio, and interactive features.  A textbook could have actual formulas that the reader could enter different data into and see plotted.

I don't pretend to have all of the answers.  It's important to recognize that Apple doesn't either.  After all, thousands of years ago, someone else brought forth a couple of tablets with unpredictable results and the rest is history!

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.