All I want for Macworld

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2005, 16:38
Category: Macworld Expo

Whether you got lumps of coal in your stocking or oil company stock, at this time of year Mac geeks around the world turn their attention to Macworld for new toys. This year feels like it’ll be a biggie, and I’ll be happy with lots of faster, lighter, new designs on laptops. Yeah, that’s nice; I could use one. Maybe a new desktop enclosure, maybe a new set of category names. That’s nice.
But what I really want to see is an iPad.
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Contributed by Steve Abrahamson, principal at Ascending Technologies, where they write FileMaker Pro systems like the ones he described running on the fictional iPad. He can be reached at steve@asctech.com.


Whether you got lumps of coal in your stocking or oil company stock, at this time of year Mac geeks around the world turn their attention to Macworld for new toys. This year feels like it’ll be a biggie, and I’ll be happy with lots of faster, lighter, new designs on laptops. Yeah, that’s nice; I could use one. Maybe a new desktop enclosure, maybe a new set of category names. That’s nice.
But what I really want to see is an iPad.
iPad: a solid chunk of plastic and steel, like a big iPod, but it’s a Mac. Big enough for a real screen; small enough to take anywhere. Touch- sensitive screen, handwriting recognition (that’s already in the OS); no keyboard, no media drive, no externally moving parts. Maybe no hard drive – then you’d have no moving parts *at all*. Take this as the opportunity to dip a toe into moving Macs to solid-state memory; after all, you’d need lower volumes in a new product category, and that’d be easier to do while we’re still in a supply-constrained ramp-up for these memory chips. Run a rubberized gasket 360 degrees around it, covering the ports since it’s designed for extreme portability, and make sure to pick a screen material that’s highly scratch-resistant. What more could a good geek want?
Say you’ve got this slab of computing goodness, no moving parts, insane battery life, maybe a screen that’s visible in daylight, and it’s only, say, 6 x 8. What can it do that a PowerBook can’t? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that it breaks the convenience/inconvenience boundary.
I have to think twice about taking my PowerBook with me when I travel: it requires a whole bag to support it’s presence, and if I’m not traveling for business, it’s tempting to leave it behind – not because I don’t want it, but rather to be unencumbered. But an iPad? You could take that anywhere. It’s part way between computer and utility. Imagine: on vacation, use it to download the pics you just shot from your digital camera, and view them on a real screen, in iPhoto! Or you’ve got a family trip coming up where you don’t want to bring a computer (both because you won’t need it on the trip, and you’ll get the “do you *have* to bring a computer with you wherever you go?” if you do), but you still want to get some work done on the plane. This is perfect – you use it on the plane, then you slide it into a bag (any bag!) and it’s gone just like your iPod would be once you got off the plane and were surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and screaming nieces and nephews.
OK, you might need that iPod a little while longer.
I can see iPads used in all kinds of vertical scenarios: stylish restaurants deploying them as waiter/waitress order pads instead of paper (running an app that’s linked via AirPort back to a server that not only gives the orders to the kitchen but also to Accounting); warehouses taking wireless inventory connected live to their main systems. Can you imagine a delivery driver with a digital route pad handing it to you for an electronic signature, and seeing an Apple logo on it? (They’d of course have automatic reconciliation when they get back to base, too). How about a digital reporter/executive notepad that could take literal digital ink as the user writes, then let them transpose it later to text? And all of it happening on Apple hardware, running OS X.
And there’s a whole additional category: iPod users who’d buy one because of their love for iPods, not computers. It’s such a sly little move, it’s beyond halo effect and simply into a companion product!
The biggest reason I don’t think I’m going to see the shiny red bike of an iPad under the Macworld tree again this year? Because Apple’s hardware innovation seems to have gone to consumer electronics. Sure, Macs still have great industrial design, but when’s the last time we saw a really new, innovative computer from Apple? The original iMac, I’d say, and that was many years ago. Everything else has been incrementalism. Progress, to be sure, and great stuff, too. But introduce an entirely new category? In computers? I don’t think they have the interest in that right now.
I publicly lay down a gauntlet: From one Steve to another, I challenge you Mr. Jobs: prove me wrong. Introduce and ship a product akin to what I’m describing here. And should you do so, sir… I’ll be first in line to buy one!
Contributed by Steve Abrahamson, principal at Ascending Technologies, where they write FileMaker Pro systems like the ones he described running on the fictional iPad. He can be reached at steve@asctech.com.

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