Angry Robot

Apple Tablet?

Some questions about this tablet thing, that have made me doubt its existence. Questions that the excellent Daring Fireball article also addresses, but does not answer – no one has answers right now.

What is the screen like? If it’s LCD, is Apple really expecting to succeed in the ebook market? The single defining feature in a suddenly-cluttered, apparently reasonably successful market is the e-ink screen, notable for the absence of backlight and close resemblance to print, but also for many side effects that make them bad for other uses (low refresh rate, monochrome, poor contrast). Apple may well view readers with some condescension – “no one reads any more” – and if so, they may settle for an LCD, which is good for everything except reading. But if they have actually tried to solve the problem, they may have something cool up their sleeves. Perhaps two layered displays? Does the backlight turn off when a book is opened? I’m very curious.

How are you supposed to type on its presumed on-screen keyboard? Do you hold it in one hand and type with the other? Do you hold it with both hands and type with your thumbs? The latter is actually more than doable on a 7” screen, and would probably work on 10” as well. But that leads to the next thing-

Is it really going to be a grand? That’s laptop money even for Apple (and at the netbook price range, three laptop money). While that makes my heart sink because it means I wouldn’t buy it, it also makes me a little excited because it means that Apple may be trying to replace the laptop, not slide in alongside it in a rather crowded gadget matrix – phone / “smartbook” / netbook / laptop / desktop. That’s ballsy stuff, although I remain skeptical of the value of a keyboardless computer. I sure as hell head to a computer when I have to type anything more ambitious than “LOL” on my iPhone, despite being comparatively good at thumb-bashing.

I think Apple may well have arrived at the tablet form after experimenting with netbooks – one can imagine they are both trying to solve the same problem. I’m just concerned that throwing out the keyboard throws out more good than bad. Then again, the Nexus One’s lack of a hardware keyboard may indicate that smartphones are evolving away from such dangly bits, like the arms of a tyrannosaur. So will we learn to stop typing and love the screen?

Whatever, it’s exciting stuff for the gadget nerd. I’m almost as hyped as I am for the final season of Lost, and that’s saying something.