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Appletell exclusive: Tech expert Scott Steinberg’s take on the Apple tablet

Sections: Features, Interviews, Macintosh/Apple Hardware

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Apple tablet concept drawing - desktop

Scott Steinberg, a technology expert and publisher of Digital Trends, always has interesting things to say about all things technology. Appearing on networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN—as well as covering news from the The New York Times and other outlets—Scott certainly has plenty of experience in this field. So, we decided we’d ask him his thoughts on what’s going to happen closer to the end of this month with the Apple tablet. Between pricing strategies and features, Scott provided some very interesting insight into what Apple may be thinking at this point in time.

How do you think Apple will market the tablet that is expected to be announced on the 27th? Will it be geared towards artists, the general population, something else?
A: If current Apple products are any guideline, it will almost certainly be marketed as a multimedia-friendly device designed to fit the everyday user’s lifestyle that provides painless access to online/streaming content; allows for robust email and Web browsing; and offers the ability to read eBooks/magazines/newspapers and play high-quality music, videos, photos and games. Considering the smashing success Apple has had in recent years courting the average guy or gal on the street with the iPhone, MacBook and other similar products, well… Let’s just say it wouldn’t be farfetched to suspect that that the company will also adopt a mainstream stance when marketing this new gadget. That goes double when you consider that niche appeal and limited hardware performance are two major factors that have previously served to marginalize the tablet PC category as a whole and doom it to obscurity—exactly the fate Apple is hoping to avoid.

What do you think Apple will call the device? iTablet, iSlate, something different?
A: Hmmm… Steve Jr.? It’s a good question, but your guess is as good as mine. While I wonder about the “iSlate” moniker, which seems less viable than iTablet (and both could easily be working titles), at this point it’s all pure speculation. But frankly, whatever Cupertino’s finest ultimately name the device, keep in mind that it’s going to take some serious effort on the company’s part to educate casual shoppers as to what that means in terms of practical, everyday value and benefits. Still, given the sheer amount of hype behind the device, and the company’s previous successes, let’s be frank: At this point, they could probably call it “Norbert,” “Mildred” or “Hi, I go for more than your monthly rent payment” and people would buy it anyway.

Do you believe Apple’s tablet device will also be designed for use with ebooks and other media commonly consumed on popular readers such as the Kindle? Or will it be something completely different with ebook reading as a feature?
A: Given the tremendous success of devices such as the Kindle, but questionable future for dedicated, single-function eReader units, I think you’ll see Apple’s tablet take the form of a more all-purpose computing device with eBook compatibility as one of many core functions that’s built-in from the get-go. The shift to digital publishing and distribution is real, happening now and too huge for any hardware vendor—even the mighty Apple—to ignore. That said, given the current lack of standardization throughout the market, I expect Apple to look at multiple ways to serve this content, whether through software apps such as a Kindle-compatible reader or a dedicated iTunes-type storefront. Rather than have eBook playback simply be a tacked-on element that just happens to be supported, however, you should see the device’s design reflect awareness of readers’ needs in terms of intuitiveness, comfort and visibility when it comes to purchasing and browsing digital literature.

What form of text input do you believe the tablet will make use of?
A: It’s purely guesswork for now, mind you, but I suspect we’ll see a virtual keyboard fused with a combination of finger- or stylus-based input. (Possibly similar to the interface on the iPhone in the former case, albeit with some expanded options to take advantage of the larger screen real estate.) Some degree of voice recognition may be possible as well, though my suspicion is that we’ll mainly offered a handful of traditional input options to choose from.

What feature do you want to see the most in Apple’s tablet device?
A: No one single feature as much as a combination of separate features that all add up to an elegant hands-on experience that make the device easy to grab and go and utilize for a variety of functions that suit our increasingly harried, mobile lifestyles. Think effortless browsing, purchasing and downloading of multimedia content; the ability to quickly access email, the Web and online data; enough horsepower to run a huge range of apps from advanced augmented reality programs to high-powered productivity software and video games; options for quickly connecting with and transferring content across desktops and home networks; and, of course, a user interface that makes it easy to scribble down notes or browse a virtual newspaper as you sit in on a sales meeting or recline on the airplane before takeoff.

How do you believe developers will react to and take advantage of the larger screen size and (probably) faster components? Will we see another surge in app development?
A: Chances are, there will be a huge upsurge in development of apps at first, as developers smitten with the success of the existing App Store flock to take advantage of the platform’s larger screen real estate and more robust computing performance. Early efforts will likely take the form of enhanced iPhone offerings, as software makers struggle to come to grips with the intricacies of the platform and possibilities it opens, while later offerings may take advantage of its power in ways we can’t even suspect.

But as an example, it’s not farfetched to consider that you could soon see advanced reference programs that incorporate sound, video and crowdsourced reviews or opinions; video games such as real-time strategy titles or first-person shooters that capitalize on wider fields of vision and enhanced 3D graphics to deliver a more immersive experience; and full-fledged office suites that rival anything found on a traditional notebook or desktop PC. The real question though is whether, at a rumored $1,000 price point, Apple can sell enough units in a speedy fashion to generate a sizable enough potential audience to fuel continued interest from the development community. We wouldn’t be seeing nearly as much activity surrounding apps (nor as much evolution amongst them) on platforms like the iPhone if the hardware wasn’t in so many people’s pockets.

In your opinion, will the tablet succeed like the iPhone or flop like the Newton?
A: I vote succeed, but perhaps not on a scale of quite the same magnitude as the iPhone. Then again, given the current state of the category, you could say that even a small victory here would be a major step forward for tablet computing as a whole, helping finally elevate it above niche status. Also keep in mind: In many ways, this is just the first shot being fired in what promises to be a long, brutal war. As we’ve seen with gadgets like the iPod and iPhone, Apple will continue to evolve the device, and you can’t bet competitors like Microsoft won’t be sitting idly bt either, ensuring that the most intriguing developments and greatest advancements in the space are likely yet to come. Success is largely in the eye of the beholder, but if Apple can just get people excited about tablet computing in the same way they’ve suddenly become obsessed with smartphones, well… I’d call that a major win.

What would the killer app be for a 10″ tablet device for you?
A: On-demand videoconferencing capability, as well as 24/7 access to a massive library of low-cost, high-quality TV and film programming, books and games, plus a multitude of third-party programs that let me transform the device into everything from a DVR to placeshifting receiver. I don’t want a simple laptop replacement—I want one device that lets me plug into every facet of the digital world.

What are your thoughts upon the networking potentials of the device? Will it use AT&T, Verizon, just Wifi, or all of the above?
A: Hopefully, we’ll see it employ all of the aforementioned solutions—more options here would equal happier shoppers. Even if the entire suite of choices isn’t available on day one, at least one wireless provider is all but sure to be on board, and I don’t think it’s farfetched to envision multiple wireless vendors offering compatible plans in the near future. As for WiFi, I find it hard to believe Apple would be able to compete at the suspected price point—which would put the tablet in direct competition with traditional laptops—without including it.

Could you see Apple’s tablet device setting a trend in the tablet marketplace much like that of the iPhone and its App Store?
A: Certainly—if Apple is able to deliver a compelling user interface, slick design and comprehensive suite of features as it has with the iPhone and App Store, then its new device could make serious waves in the tablet market. But there are still a lot of big “ifs” surrounding the gizmo at the moment, as well as the category as a whole, and whether everyday end users will be willing to buy in. If it were anybody else, I’d be extremely dubious. But if anyone can pull a rabbit or two out of the proverbial hat—and possibly make tablet computing mainstream in the process—it’s Steve Jobs and co. Fingers crossed we’ll all soon be in for some pleasant surprises.

Read [Digital Trends]

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One Comment

  1. It will need to fire up quickly… that is the difference in a Laptop and an iPhone… you have to wait for a computer to catch up to long…

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