The "Say What?" Moment for Apple's Tablet

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

-- General George S. Patton

All of us who write about Apple are weighing in today about what the Apple tablet will be like, features, speeds and feeds. I've already done that, so, instead, I'm going to provide some tips that will help put the announcement on Wednesday in perspective.

Here's perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind as you learn about the Apple tablet tomorrow.

The very people the Apple tablet is aimed at are, by and large, not the people who will be writing about it tomorrow.

What that means is that technical writers have already decided on their tools and workflow. I have called it the process of staging:

"There may be a desktop computer or server at home with terabytes of storage, a printer, and a big screen. When on travel, one takes, say, a MacBook. But at the destination, there are times when lugging the MacBook around doesn't make sense. So it stays in the office or host's house, and one takes the iPhone to lunch or the amusement park. There is a clear-cut sequence of lightening the load based on the environment and needs. Call it sequential staging, like a rocket booster."

And that's where most business people, technical professionals, and writers are right now. They can't conceive of another device that they need to carry around, so there will be plenty of articles tomorrow that predict failure for the Apple tablet.

This is not the target audience for the Apple tablet.

The Changing Face of Youth and Entertainment

I got an e-mail the other day from a marketing consultant that summarized the situation for younger people connected to the Internet. They use it in ways that many older adults do not.

"Kids don't watch much TV with us anymore. They use their Roku units. They log onto their favorite shows. They YouTube oldies but goodies. They watch shows from Spain, France and Mexico. They're watching how-to YouTube segments. They watch the stuff on their smartphones and their notebooks...not the TV. That's got Tellywood worried because they don't control that much anymore."

That's an approximate way of saying that adults who are immersed in business technology aren't that well versed on what teenagers and young people are doing with the Internet, how they communicate, and how they entertain themselves. Yesterday, I noted:

"So when Apple puts a video camera and an FM radio in an iPod nano, it's not just featuritis, it's a fundamental recognition of the ways in which young people communicate and entertain themselves."

The "Say What?" Moment

Jeff Gamet and I have had a theory for a long time that there will be a few moments in Wednesday's demo that will create a cognitive dissonance for many. There will be a feature presented that will, at first, seem crazy or irrelevant -- or even incomprehensible. The full impact of the feature and technology will only become apparent after a week or so of examination. After all, Apple has had years to think about how this product will fit into our lives, perhaps in ways we haven't realized we needed. Don't be surprised if that Apple understanding of what we need, but haven't yet had, takes us by surprise at first blush.

But then, in a week or so, we'll all transition from the "Say what?" moment to the "Aha!" moment.

Look for that tomorrow.

Hitting the Market Running, Hardware is Secondary

Once we understand how the Apple tablet is intended to be used by customers who have a need for it: students, doctors, pilots, young people on the move, people who've given up on cable and satellite TV, gamers, people who can't afford a big HDTV home theater, laboratory researchers, scientists and engineers in the field, librarians and book fans, information specialists ... and so on, then we'll start to understand why the hardware was designed the way it was. So talking about the hardware specifications today without understanding the target market, to be revealed tomorrow, doesn't make sense to me.

As you read about the news of the Apple tablet or watch a the videocast later, look for these "Say What?" moments that will startle and delight you. All will become clear in the next few weeks as we come to fully understand what has been revealed to us.