Apple, What’s Next?

Apple_touchbook (by StarbuckGuy)

Rumours about Apple’s next product have been swirling about like a London fog, obscuring more than it enlightens. But one thing the rumours have in common is that the new device will have a 10″ screen.

So what will it be? An oversized iPod Touch? That’s one take making the rounds. But who would want an iPod that big, even if it had a phone in it? The whole point of an iPod is portability and pocketability. I can’t see this one playing out, though I anticipate that whatever it is, it will have Touch technology built in.

Another rumour is that it will be a tablet-based eBook reader (with iPod Touch features of course). This is tantalizing. With California mandating the use of eBooks for high-school math and science courses, we could be on the verge of a change in how texbooks are used in education. Or not.

It could also be a competitor to the relatively successful Kindle 2 from Amazon. There’s an attraction to eBooks on a good reader. The Apple version would offer colour, but would it be as easy on the eyes as the Kindle?

Another rumour is that the new Apple will be a netbook based around iPod Touch technology. In this instantiation it would be a clamshell design, complete with keyboard. If I had my wish, this is the rumour I’d like to see come true, but doubt has been cast on this one. Insiders say that Jobs doesn’t want to make a Mac clamshell netbook, that it’s not forward looking.

I’ve seen one mockup (at top of this blog) that shows it as a tablet PC (iPod Touch style) with a big keyboard displayed on the tablet itself. Neat, technologically, but any writer can tell you that you can’t type on a virtual keyboard on a glass surface for long. It might be good for a few notes, or a quick email, but it’s not a serious alternative to a real keyboard.

So, what will it be? My fear is that Apple, meaning Jobs himself, will not want to clutter the lines of the new device with external connectors, and so far he has resisted putting in BlueTooth receivers for external hardware.

The bottom line for me is this: I’m a writer and need to use a device with a real keyboard. If Apple offers this device with an external keyboard, in a clamshell, or off to the side, I’m in. If the keyboard is virtual, and there’s no way of connecting an external keyboard, I’m out.

My Palm TX with Palm Bluetooth wireless folding keyboard has shown me how useful a portable writing device can be. This kind of functionality, combined with iPod Touch capabilities and software, would be a writer’s dream. Will the dream become reality?

6 thoughts on “Apple, What’s Next?

  1. Very thoughtful commentary on all the rumors circulating about the next Apple product. I agree that an oversized iPod Touch doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve heard rumors that it will be bundled with some new iTunes multimedia interface or content, but that doesn’t seem like enough of a reason for a new product. Having the ability to 1) type with a real keyboard and 2) stand the device on a table so that it’s not always on my lap or in my arms, would be crucial to my decision to buy. I’m kind of excited to see what Apple comes up with.

  2. Gene,

    If Apple introduces the rumoured 10″ device, I don’t think you will be disappointed, and here is my reasoning …

    With the July OS update for the Touch, Bluetooth was turned on for devices other than the Nike gadget. (I have, in fact, ordered a cheap Bluetooth headset from to test voice capability with my VoIP app on the Touch.) While Bluetooth keyboards are not supported on the Touch, I don’t fault Jobs for that — too much. Extended writing was never a target app for the Touch.

    But on a device such as the one rumoured, the intended user would be significantly different than the mainstream Touch user. I don’t think Apple/Jobs would miss the difference, and such a device would fill a hole in the Apple lineup. The target would be those who really want their tunes and iPod apps, but also need a “real” computing and/or writing platform. Even a 13″ MacBook/Pro is larger than what I want to “schlepp” around for that … if I have the option not to.

    In fact, I think 10″ is larger than I really need. You and I both know that even your Palm or my late Zaurus with external keyboard are fine for writing. I’d be happy with 7″ (it’s capability, not size, that matters 😉 ), or even the current Touch with Bluetooth keyboard. The only other thing the Touch lacks is external file transfer with directly connected cameras or media cards via a USB reader, ad hoc WiFi, etc. To be fair, I haven’t done a deep dive on 3rd party Touch apps for this latter function, but so far I haven’t struck gold. That’s another area where I think a large Touch/tablet device would have additional functionality. The ability to earily integrate images and video in ones writing is just too important to be ignored.

    Here’s hoping.

  3. A couple more thoughts: If BT keybaord were available on the Touch, I would upgrade to the 32GB model from my current 8GB. And I would be looking for a higher fidelity sound recording capability in a nextgen Touch. I used the “voice memos” recorder at a folk festival recently. I wasn’t trying to do a hi-fi recording, just something to remember a couple of numbers and maybe add to a blog entry. The problem was that there was no control to limit overloading or do EQ. Those features and capabilities would be a plus, and I would expect them on a TouchBook. 😀

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