Apple Does It’s Best To Stall Tablet Market

steve-jobs-ipad.jpgWell the ultra-hyped Apple tablet has finally been revealed as the “iPad”.  Some are excited about it while others are disappointed.  But now that the dust has settled, I think it’s clear that Apple’s real purposes in their “launch” was simply to stall.

Let’s review:  As more and more companies looked toward the slate (keyboardless tablet) form factor as the next “netbook market”, Apple began to get worried they would be beaten to the punch.  Ironically it was probably the deluge of iTablet rumors that spurred the competition on towards creating the next great device before Apple cornered the market, but the advances made in more powerful and lower wattage processors didn’t hurt either.

As the various tablet designs began to leak out before CES 2010, the iTablet leaks became the norm replacing the wild speculation of the “fan boys”.  Apple effectively cast a shadow over CES and had people instead looking toward the Apple event.  Unfortunately while the Apple event was attempted to mirror the iPhone launches it failed to deliver.

Consider the following:

  • The iPad 3G versions won’t be available for 3 months which is much closer to the annual iphone launch timing.
  • The update of the iPhone OS from 3.1 to 3.2 instead of 4.0 which practically announces that very little extra functionality has been added.
  • The inability to handle full flash (yet) which is a staple of web browsing – which is supposed to be one of the core functions of the device.
  • To a lesser extent the lack of multitasking and a camera.  The slate/tablet was supposed to fill the gap between the iPhone and a notebook in functionality – not just size.

I believe that Apple intended to launch the iPad ready to ship with iPhone OS 4.0, full flash and at least limited multitasking this June alongside the next iPhone.  Instead, the competition came knocking and Apple acted quickly to stall the market and hopefully gain enough time to finish their product.  And if they scared off a few companies that were in the planning instead of prototype stage – all the better.

The Perfect Tablet

With Apple’s mythical tablet supposedly being unveiled next week and tons of companies trying to beat them to the punch: a lot of people are talking about the perfect tablet.  Here’s my take.

The perfect tablet needs to fill the -somewhat narrow- gap between smart phones and netbooks.  The iPhone has a 3.5″ 480×320 display and weighs under 5oz.  The typical netbook has a 10″ 1024×600 display and weighs under 3lbs. A tablet will compete with ereaders so those must be kept in mind as well.  The Kindle has a 6″ 600×800 display and it weighs 10oz.

So tablet should have a 7-9″ with at least 800×600 resolution up to either a 1024×800 or 1280×720 depending on aspect ratio.  It should weigh between one and two pounds with lighter being better except at the expense of battery life.  A 2lb tablet with 6 hours of battery life will out sell a 1lb device with just 2 hrs.  And battery life is key meaning that the hardware should either a snapdragon ARM or Nvidia’s tegra: both can power HD video at a smart phone level power draw.  The screen should be the Pixel Qi as it supports multi-touch and conserve power in e-ink mode.  Not to mention helping any tablet compete with the dedicated ereaders.  As for OS you have two choices really: windows 7 or Android.  Win 7 has the advantage of easy transition from PCs but may bring with that unrealistic expectations.  Droid has much promise but is still a tad high on the potential to actual software ratio.  Lastly, the perfect tablet should include the most commonly overlooked port in these devices: SD.  People bring netbooks on vacation for web or work sure – but also to view/backup digicam pics which is why an SD slot is crucial to utility.

So to summarize the “Perfect Tablet” with currently available hardware:

  • 8.9″ Pixel Qi 1024×600 multi-touch screen
  • Nvidia Tegra CPU/GPU
  • Wireless: b/g/n & BT
  • 60GB 1.8″ HD or SSD
  • 256MB RAM
  • Ports: Headphones, mini USB, SD
  • 256 x 134 x 17 mm
  • 800 grams
  • Android 2.1
  • 10 hr battery life

* dimensions taken from the Archos 9 tablet

Nvidia Tegra + Pixel Qi screen = 1 Awesome Tablet

Nvidia Tegra can power 1080p video and even Unreal 3 engine gaming with great battery life.  The Pixel Qi screen can operate in normal color screen mode or an e-ink mode that uses only 0.2 watts and is readable in sunlight.  Multi-touch supported.  The bar just moved way up for Apple’s still mythical tablet.

The gaming is at ~7min in the video the Qi is after that.

DataJack Is the MagicJack For 3G

Where MagicJack made Voice over IP calling simple (self contained USB flashdrive with phone jack) and cheap ($20/year)… DataJack has stepped in to do the same for 3G Wireless coverage on your various mobile computers.  Instead of $60/month for a max of 5GB/month like every other carrier out there.  DataJack is offering unlimited 3G for $40/month.  A much more appealing price for the masses that are already paying $40-50/month of broadband at home. $60 always seemed a tad steep for supplemental internet.  I never liked the caps either, besides, most people aren’t going to download movies or other huge files over 3G… we’re not patient enough to for 1Mbps speeds when we have 12Mpbs at home. However, we would like to have the option for surfing beyond our phone’s capabilities fairly often and you can only hang out at Panera and Starbucks so much and still be cool.

Oh and did i mention there are no contracts involved….

New Atom Chips For Better Netbooks

Intel has officially unveiled their new Atom Processor, though netbooks with them won’t go on sale until January 4th.  Early benchmarks on the new 1.66 Ghz N450 chip put it at around 5% faster than current 1.6 Ghz N270 and about 1% faster than the less common 1.66 Ghz N280.  Intel has also “improved” their graphics by 50%.  Which sounds impressive until you realize that Nvidia’s Ion netbook GPUs are over 1000% more powerful than Intel’s current offering.

So if the performance improvements are marginal at best – why bother?  Simple: power. The new Atom chips are designed using a 45nm process and Intel’s new NM10 Express Chipset.  It also moves the memory controller on chip.  Which means the Atom N450 and chipset package has TDP of just 7 watts. Compare that to the 10 and 12 watt TDPs of current offerings.  Less power consumed means both longer battery life and thinner devices (since there is less heat to dissipate).  The netbooks launching after the New Year should be slightly thinner and 10 hour usage should be the norm for 6 cell batteries.

So if Santa doesn’t bring you that netbook you’ve been eyeing, I’d hold out a week. Unless you can score a killer clearance deal.  ;)