The Apple Tablet’s Killer Feature?

  • Posted: 29 July 2009 03:35 PM

    What Will be the Killer Feature of an Apple Tablet?

    Tuesday July 28, 2009 05:30 PM EST
    Written by arn [Mac Rumors]

    With the growing evidence that Apple will be releasing some sort of Apple Tablet in the next 3-6 months, analysts and writers have started speculating about the potential success or failure of such a device.

    Both Gizmodo and PC World have taken the time to detail why they think that such a product will be a flop. John Gruber, however, points out that these people are incorrectly assuming that such a device would mimic present day tablets and offer no compelling new features.

    This is not the first time that Apple has been close to releasing a tablet device. Back in 2003, the evidence for a Mac Tablet had reached similarly high levels, but for whatever reason, Apple ultimately decided not to release that device. We’ve always felt that the reason has been more a marketing decision than a technical one. Until Apple comes up with that “killer feature” for a tablet, we don’t believe that Apple would commit to the market. Apple has always said that they won’t pursue a product line unless they feel they can offer something new and compelling. While these promises could simply be dismissed as marketing propoganda, it seems clear that Apple’s entries into the MP3 and mobile phone markets have met those standards.

    Arguably, the iPhone’s killer feature on launch was its excellent mobile web browser. This feature was poached from another internal Apple tablet project called “Safari Pad”. Steve Jobs is said to have recognized its value and morphed it into what became the iPhone.

    So the question remains, what added value has Apple decided it can provide in a tablet device that its competitors have been unable to offer? Are interactive album booklets alone compelling enough to launch this new device? Or have they finally decided to deploy more advanced multi-touch on a larger screen?

         
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    Posted: 29 July 2009 03:56 PM #1

    I love Apple. The iPod is brilliant. The Apple Stores are brilliant. The iPhone is brilliant. But I just can’t wrap my head around how an Apple tablet will be groundbreaking in any way. I can’t see it as anything other than a large iPod Touch. That you can’t put in your pocket or purse, and can’t make phone calls with. I would think that a 10” or 11” version of the Macbook Air would be far more practical, and just as portable. Plus it would have a keyboard and could be set on a desk or table so the screen was vertical so you could actually see it. I guess we’ll find out very soon according to these reports.

    [ Edited: 29 July 2009 04:04 PM by Dr. Gripp ]

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  • Posted: 29 July 2009 04:41 PM #2

    This is a good question.  It’s probably been answered over the past months, but I have not gone back to read those threads. 

    I can’t really imagine a killer app for an iTablet that I would personally want.  In fact I’m starting to wonder why I would lug around a 10” screened iTablet when the iPhone is so cheap, powerful, and portable.  I guess I would get one as a laptop (I don’t own a laptop now), but I don’t need a laptop for work and my consumer mobile computer needs are met by an iPhone pretty well.

    In terms of hardware, what new functionality does the bigger screen enable?  Will there be other hardware above and beyond the iPod Touch hardware?  The obvious con is the size makes it more expensive and less portable.

    In terms of software, will an extended iPhone OS or OSX + multitouch enable significant new functionality above an iPod Touch?

    I have read sleepy’s post on the three strategic aims of the iTablet, which made a lot of sense.  That post, actually a series of three quick posts, seems to have disappeared but I found the thread in Google’s cache (DT can you bring that thread back with the necessary moderation/deletes?  Thanks!)

    So we now have 3 specific strategic purposes envisaged for iTablet:

    1. Verizon?s first sniff at iPhone goodness
    2. A leg-up for the media biz into the internet age, moving away from PC based piracy
    3. indirectly marginalising the power of Microsoft and the IT mafia in corporations


    And related to that, ernie’s claim that the iTablet might have an enterprise focus also makes sense.  I can see tons of scenarios where workers could use a tablet for field work, data capture, paperless office type systems, and especially, a major enhancement to the iPhone’s medical applications including much higher resolution medical imaging and more practical electronic medical records. These scenarios are not personal communication scenarios, which is where a small mobile like the iPhone I think is better suited. 

    So, having been away and unengaged in the iTablet debate, I’m eager to hear what AFB folks have come up with.

    [ Edited: 29 July 2009 04:56 PM by alcatholic ]

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    Posted: 29 July 2009 04:41 PM #3

    Dr. Gripp - 29 July 2009 06:56 PM

    I love Apple. The iPod is brilliant. The Apple Stores are brilliant. The iPhone is brilliant. But I just can’t wrap my head around how an Apple tablet will be groundbreaking in any way. I can’t see it as anything other than a large iPod Touch. That you can’t put in your pocket or purse, and can’t make phone calls with. I would think that a 10” or 11” version of the Macbook Air would be far more practical, and just as portable. Plus it would have a keyboard and could be set on a desk or table so the screen was vertical so you could actually see it. I guess we’ll find out very soon according to these reports.

    I’d purchase one simply because my eyes cannot bear looking at little-bitty text and because I wouldn’t mind not being married to my desk during market hours.

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  • Posted: 29 July 2009 05:25 PM #4

    Not sure where to post this, but I thought it was funny…a member of a forum (non-financial) that I’m on, posted this about her “netbook”

    “Obviously, I’m STILL here at Starbuck’s, trying to go through some of my mail.
    Frankly, I hate my mini laptop.  I would never had bought it if I had known what a pain it is to type on.  I bought mine at Target, and for what I paid I could almost have had a Wii, which I would have rather had .....
    To each her own, but I regret buying mine.”

    I believe Apple can really put a dent in the netbook market with ANY product they release that fills a similar desire for something bigger than an iPhone and smaller than a laptop.

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    Posted: 29 July 2009 06:05 PM #5

    willrob - 29 July 2009 06:35 PM

    ... Arguably, the iPhone’s killer feature on launch was its excellent mobile web browser. This feature was poached from another internal Apple tablet project called “Safari Pad”. Steve Jobs is said to have recognized its value and morphed it into what became the iPhone.

    So the question remains, what added value has Apple decided it can provide in a tablet device that its competitors have been unable to offer? Are interactive album booklets alone compelling enough to launch this new device? Or have they finally decided to deploy more advanced multi-touch on a larger screen?

    iTablet’s killer feature would be the tablet QuickTime player.

    Note:  I prefer to call the iTablet, Macbook because Mac has always been associated with fun and multimedia excellence.

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    Posted: 31 July 2009 07:53 AM #6

    The iTablet’s killer feature will be full OS X running on a 25cm (10”) screen. The netbook hackintoshes I’ve seen are fantastic for people on the go. Have you ever tried administering an Airport network from the iPhone? That’s right, you can’t!  You can barely administer a linksys network that way. iPhone is a walled garden that is for the mobile data grazer. iTablet is for everyone else. Apple - the power of OS X compels you (to make an iTablet!

    What I actually want is an iWatch -> iTablet -> Mac iLife Server and my life would be perfect. Like the guy in yellow:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_FS2TiK3AI

    I’d do the iWatch a little differently though.

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  • Posted: 31 July 2009 09:24 AM #7

    What is the killer feature of netbooks, selling like hotcakes?  Nothing, except portability and price.  The killer feature of the tablet is the same.  Portability is obvious.  Price will be the determinant of success.  If the subsidized price can get into the netbook pricing range, the iTablet is a huge hit.  If the price is closer to the low-end Macs it may appeal to only a smaller base that buys anything from Apple.

    That said, there’s one new killer app that an iTablet could enable, and that is note taking.  Particularly if it comes with a stylus.  We all go to lots of meetings, classes, seminars etc.  In many of these contexts its awkward to have a laptop open for reference and notes.  The upright screen creates a barrier.  If the iTablet screen is bright and sharp enough, it can sit on a table or in your lap and act like a legal pad, but with all the features of a PC. 

    And we all go on vacations.  The iTablet is the perfect device for a vacation.  Bring it to the beach to read a book, surf the net in your hotel room, work a little on the plane, watch a movie in bed.  You don’t have to lug your laptop in your luggage, and you can take it everywhere.  But if you have to do a little work on your vacation, it will serve the purpose.  The iPhone/Touch can do all of this too, but you will appreciate the larger screen in enough situations that you will want this on every vacation you take. 

    And if you are a kid aged 3 and above, having a larger screen than a Touch so you can watch movies and TV, play video games etc, will make the iTablet the “Most Wanted” electronics item on Amazon for years to come.

         
  • Posted: 31 July 2009 12:45 PM #8

    Apple’s killer features are alway obvious in hindsight. I didn’t realize how revolutionary the iPhone is until I wanted to know the hours of one of the Apple stores on a Sunday. I’ve always found Apple stores by using Safari to reach Apple.com and touching “retail stores” and entering the state, city etc. Sequential touching on the iPhone works, but is tedious.
    This time I was in a hurry so I just tapped on the iPhone’s Google app, taped on “Voice Search” and said “Apple Store Manhattan Beach California.” Instantly I got the store page with the hours in one more tap. I was stunned that it was that easy.

    I suggest the killer feature of the iTablet will be simple combination of reliable voice recognition, gestures, and lots to point at. All we need to do a lot of mobile activities are a few words combined with visual clues. As a tourist, I have no problem buying a pastry in Paris, Munich, or Prague despite widely varying language skills and familiarity with local dialects. “That,” accompanied by a finger point will get you an entire store full of goodies, without needing to know the words for cookies, donuts, taschen, croissant, blini, etc.

         
  • Posted: 31 July 2009 12:53 PM #9

    No plans for Apple e-book service, says source

    Apple does not have any interest in building an e-book store, at least at the moment, an anonymous industry source claims. Speculation has arisen because of reports documenting an upcoming tablet device, generally expected to measure 10 inches and carry a built-in 3G connection. Regardless of whether or not the tablet supports e-ink technology, it could represent competition for Amazon’s dominant Kindle readers.

    The source suggests that any e-book support on the Apple tablet will have to come from third-party companies, which could include Barnes & Noble or Amazon itself. A Kindle application is already available for the iPhone.

    Silicon Alley Insider observes that Apple may be avoiding e-books for several reasons. These include a small audience relative to the amount of money needed for e-book publishing, which could also fail to sell more hardware, the main purpose of iTunes and the App Store. Enough e-book apps already exist on the App Store moreover, from which Apple pulls 30 percent of the revenue.

    Apple may also have had bad experiences with e-books several years ago. The book industry was then and now archaic and disorganized, the source claims, prompting Apple CEO Steve Jobs to cancel distribution plans.

         
  • Posted: 31 July 2009 12:53 PM #10

    I think it would be the ability to subscribe to formerly or currently print only periodicals that are downloaded automatically. You get up in the morning and head down for breakfast grabbing your tablet to look at the news; you subscribe to WSJ, NYT, and your hometown newspaper; the content (paid subscription so it’s premium stuff) is all there waiting for you. using the touch interface to move through pages expand images, etc. I don’t see it as just serving up a webpage though, more of a Kindle-ish sort of experience (without all of the Amazon DRM B.S.). Plus the ability to put any other content (via PDF) on the tablet to navigate in the same way; as a designer it would be great to have this portable presentation screen that I can mark up concepts and prototypes in a client meeting like a virtual sketchpad.

    Laptops and Netbooks are too big and cumbersome for just looking at and using stuff. I think the iPod Touch and iPhone have shown the future of really simple, intuitive, portable computing.

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  • Posted: 31 July 2009 01:44 PM #11

    I’m not sure what the tablet’s killer feature will be, but I suspect I know what it’s Achilles Heel and ultimate downfall will be: the App Store.

    If this thing will actually have ubiquitous network access over a cellular provider (as has been suggested), does anyone doubt that you will only be able to run Apple-approved applications? Does anyone believe that the release of the tablet will see a huge dramatic change in the App Store approval/deny process?

    Think of how much you would enjoy your Mac if you could only buy software from the Apple Store and they displayed the same draconian/infantile/arbitrary software selection process they do on the App Store.

    I think I’ll pass on the tablet, thanks.

         
  • Posted: 31 July 2009 03:30 PM #12

    Steve Jobs, April 2004

    Mr. Jobs addressed the issue of video on iPods when asked by Mike Wendland of the Detroit Free Press whether or not Apple was looking to add features to the iPod. “One of the things we say around Apple, and I paraphrase Bill Clinton from the 1992 presidential race, is ‘It’s about the music, stupid.’” Mr. Jobs says that there is a big difference between the way people listen to music and other activities like watching videos. Specifically, he said, you can listen to music in the background, while movies require that you actually watch them. “You can’t watch a video and drive a car,” he said. “We’re focused on music.”

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  • Posted: 31 July 2009 03:43 PM #13

    Montresor - 31 July 2009 04:44 PM

    I’m not sure what the tablet’s killer feature will be, but I suspect I know what it’s Achilles Heel and ultimate downfall will be: the App Store.

    If this thing will actually have ubiquitous network access over a cellular provider (as has been suggested), does anyone doubt that you will only be able to run Apple-approved applications? Does anyone believe that the release of the tablet will see a huge dramatic change in the App Store approval/deny process?

    Think of how much you would enjoy your Mac if you could only buy software from the Apple Store and they displayed the same draconian/infantile/arbitrary software selection process they do on the App Store.

    I think I’ll pass on the tablet, thanks.

    I think the App Store itself is more of an Achilles Heel than the implementation of it on a tablet or a MacBook/iMac system. The iTablet device can be the proper implementation what has been a windows based playing field forever. The iPhone/iPod Touch have proven that people want an approachable touchy-feely device that doesn’t rely on a pen-based method of input.  I had a Toshiba T-1000 based tablet with cramped net-book sized keyboard and the stylus pen, all of which added up to a physically painful experience.  All touch based tablet with or without full OS X implementation is a welcome addition.  What would send me over the top would be photo editing (ala PhotoShop) for touching up images.  I think Apple is struggling with how to keep this device from stepping on the toes of the ugly step-child MacBook Air that on the north side of the price point of a iTablet’s high-end.

         
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    Posted: 31 July 2009 04:30 PM #14

    I personally do not see the need for Apple to produce a tablet. It is a margin killer, and that goes against AAPL’s business model. My GF bought a netbook last month and I for one do not care for it. The fact that you also need to purchase a multi-drive to install software bites. Putting out a low price tablet will cut into the macbook sales if anything and I just disagree with that thinking. Apple is not trying to be the market share leader, which is where MS is building with the netbooks (low end).  JMO Mark

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  • Posted: 31 July 2009 05:21 PM #15

    Come on folks, you are just not “gettin it”. If the Apple ipod tablet runs BOTH OSX and also runs iphone/ipod touch apps in some kind of virtual environment (totally easy to accomplish) the Apple tablet will be nothing short of HUGE. If you can run most OSX apps and still have access to the app store this thing will have unlimited potential.

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why there isn’t some OSX consumer-easy virtual environment for iphone apps right now!

    With Apple’s usual hardware flair and the above software, this thing will have unlimited markets!

    Now, doesn’t that make TOTAL economic sense for Apple and the user?