Speculation on Apple’s rumored Tablet

Speculation has been mounting for weeks regarding a rumored “Tablet” computer from Apple.

As such rumors often go, the details have been all over the map, though most center on the likelihood of the device having a 10″ screen and being based on some variation of Cocoa Touch (the foundational API behind the iPhone and iPod Touch). Beyond that, though, a veritable “cone of silence” from Apple has kept a lid on the project and nobody really know what the final device will look like and how it will operate.

Speculative Tablet Image

Illustration of what I expect the tablet to look like

John Gruber’s take on the Apple’s tablet plans largely match my own: While in many respects it’s simply a larger and more powerful iPod Touch-esque device, the user interface will be specifically designed with the larger form factor in mind. Apple is a company that “sweats the details”, and while they will (hopefully) make the transition easy for current iPhone developers, it’s unlikely to simply be a matter of dealing with a higher resolution display. If nothing else, you can expect there to be an entirely new set of widgets and associated API calls to deal with.

I also agree with Gruber that Apple is looking at Cocoa Touch-based platforms with a long term plan in mind. While it’s unlikely that these devices will ever completely replace traditional computers, as an Internet access and media consumption tool the prospects are quite exciting. Apple has been known to cannibalize the low end of their own existing, successful products (in this case, the MacBook) with an eye toward staying ahead of the curve. That’s why they’re so much more exciting than, say, Microsoft or Dell – they’re willing to take risks.

So – How does this affect Tapestry?

Well, as far as I can tell it’s unlikely to impact PhotoTrader much. PhotoTrader really shines on a small, portable camera-enabled device. While I could (depending on the final product) see creating a Tablet-based version of the app, this won’t happen unless the device itself is complementary to what the app was designed for: Sharing a piece of your “world” through photography. Aside from having a much nicer display, at this time it’s hard to imagine it being a better fit for that than something that lives in your pocket. We shall see.

However, it’s worth mentioning that PhotoTrader won’t remain as Tapestry’s only product, and (surprise!) our next app – already well into development – will be exceedingly well suited to the form factor and design of what this tablet device is expected to be. To say that I’m excited about the possibilities of this new platform is an understatement, particularly if Apple offers a bit more power and API flexibility than they provide with their current touch-oriented products (ie. multitasking, more memory, fewer constraints).

Of course, this is all pure speculation, though the consensus seems to indicate that the tablet will be coming soon (likely some time between later this month and March). The real question is how big a market there will be for such a device – and that ultimately depends on how Apple prices it.

While I agree with Apple’s tradition of staying away from exceedingly cheap, low-margin products – such as netbooks (aka. “really crappy laptops”), as a developer you really can’t help but want to see large numbers of people capable of actually using your product. For that, the entry level tablet has to be at least moderately affordable.

In any case, you can bet I’ll be getting one ASAP. For development purposes and – well – because it sounds really, really cool.

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