Apple iPad: Would you buy a tablet-sized iPhone?

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it hit my personal sweet spot of a device so perfectly that I knew I’d have it with me all the time. As my lifestyle has increasingly become an always-on, always-connected one, having the ability to communicate in a variety of ways (voice, SMS, Twitter, moblogging), instantly look up a phone number, address or some obscure fact (the latter which always receives that “not again!” look from my wife), use the new Google Maps features (which I now prefer to my in-car navigation) means that this device has woven its way into my psyche and you’ll now have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

In my eight months of iPhone ownership, I’ve discovered that anything besides casual use (even when connected to Wifi) is less than optimal and heavy Wifi use sucks the juice from the battery at an alarming rate. Sometimes when waiting or bored, I’ll break it out and surf sites, but pinching-n-zooming gets old real fast. The tradeoff for having the internet-in-my-pocket with my phone (and always available) is gazing at it through a tiny screen and for now, I’m more than willing to make that compromise with this delightful device.

When Apple introduced the Macbook Air, I thought that finally, here was the perfect computing device for both my bride and I to augment our main computing boxes (she a 24″ iMac, me a Mac Pro with Apple 23″ display). Especially her, someone who travels globally and where every ounce she packs matters, is someone I thought would leap at this device. For me, someone who strongly desires a “more portable, portable” that is a step-up from the iPhone, chances were good I’d be buying one.

Not gonna happen for either of us.

The two of us — who also own the latest Macbook Pro’s — the Air’s compromises for amazing portability is it’s just too far under the threshold for power and storage. My bride travels to tradeshows where she’ll take 1,000 photos per day (meaning storage and speed is an imperative) and upon her return she’ll connect it at home to a big Apple display (and the MBPro can drive such a display nicely while the Air cannot) to sort images for her reports.

With my MBPro, I have a box that can nicely run InDesign, Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Screenflow, and Final Cut Express. It has expansion ports allowing me to connect up all sorts of external devices. For all but my most power hungry requirements (e.g., video editing or transcoding a video into Flash which I do on the Mac Pro), my MBPro is perfect.

What I find, however, is that I’m walking all over the place with my laptop and so is my bride. We watch TV with them since we’re always looking stuff up (which was fun during the Academy Awards) and often pause our DVR to have conversations about some fact one of us has discovered (and we even fact-check when something doesn’t smell right on a news show).

John Markoff of the New York Times had this post today called Reading Steve Jobs. In it, he reads the tea leaves as it’s clear he has a sense that an “iPad” (or some such tablet-type form factor) is in the offing.

I’d concur and think they will. It makes no sense that Apple would hit a home run with the iPhone and iTouch to not accelerate down the “touch” road with other form factors. If you read my post on MSNBC’s primary coverage which started off, “This, my friends, is the future of television” you’ll understand how I’m seeing the need for Internet-connected computing devices to augment (or maybe replace) some of the activities we’re doing today like TV watching, reading books and newspapers and so forth. (Note: the last debate streamed by MSNBC was, by all accounts, horrible).

Yes, I believe Apple will unveil an “iPad” in the near term and it will be an under $1,000 device sized somewhere between a journal and a tablet (8.5″ x 11″). My questions are, “Will I feel about it like I do the Macbook Air? Underpowered and too compromised?

Knowing Apple, they’ve asked them all (and many others) and will come out with the best possible feature set to hit the broadest market segment possible.

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  1. Michael Long on March 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I doubt the device would be much larger than 6×9, as one wouldn’t be able to “thumb” the existing virtual keyboard design on an 8.5×11 page, and touch-typists would have problems on anything approaching a full sized virtual keyboard.

    One would also have screen size/battery life issues, especially on what would be mostly a media player. I suspect also that given battery and cost constraints, you’re looking at iPhone-class storage capacities, so if the Air is too small for you then an iPad is probably out of the question as well.

  2. DaveD on March 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I own 3 laptops, 1 PowerMac G5, 1 iPhone, and 1 iPod Touch. By far, my largest usage goes to my newest MacBook… at ~13″ it’ the perfect combination of form factor, speed, and CPU power. (Of course, I have 4 gig RAM and a third party HDD that gives me maximum size at 7200 RPM.)

    What would my ideal iPad be?

    (1) Large enough to expand that miserably small keypad – you know, the one that unless your typing in Safari usually means typing at anything close to 50% of your normal keystroke speed means you increased your misstrokes y about 200%.

    (2) WiFi capability. A quality camera. Ability to install software like a Mac… as in no iTunes tie-in.

    (3) But I’d sacrifice *some* battery life for portability. I’m usually tethered enough.

    So let’s split the difference… make it hand-size. About 6×9 (I have a lare hand!) But here’s where we really disagree… price.

    No way would Apple initially charge bleeding-edge zealots like me under $1000 for something like this. I wouldn’t even expect that to happen in the year after the release. So I’ll guess they’d retail such an item for, say, $1400. With optional remote, adapters, cables (except a USB cable and brick of course), and dock.

  3. Scott_S on March 3, 2008 at 7:44 pm


    I agree with your take. I have several devices. In addition to a sweet iMac, I have a super-small Sony TR3A and an iTouch. I have quit using the Sony and prefer using the iTouch.

    I imagine a device that is about 5×8. I see a stand on the back that pops out to prop it up like those cheesy photo frames. However, while this might come in handy for watching movies on it, I see a portable data entry device via a bluetooth keyboard. Would one use this all the time? No. But for taking notes in a meeting or heavy portable data entry, it’s a godsend.

    One could leave the keyboard in their bag and then use the device as a tablet. I could forgo a camera but some type of speaker would help. The iTouch is missing this and it’s a real drawback for collaboration. A small tablet would be good for only about 3 people but video out would enable it for larger groups.

    The other thing I’d like to see is Adobe Flash installed on it. Apple & Adobe need to kiss and make up. Flash is necessary for watching the embedded videos popping up everywhere. In addition, it could become a great portable learning tool.

    The price point needs to stay around $750 or less. The MacBook is a great entry-level device and if this is too expensive, it would be difficult to justify.

    Let’s hope it comes to fruition.

  4. Jack on March 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Take a look at Apple’s new wireless keyboard and imagine a tablet about the same size which would snuggle up to it, or attach to it. Keyboard could be taken or left behind depending on your needs. I think that would be about right.

  5. Steve Nagel on March 13, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Three computer forms make sense to me as mainstream, consumer winners: the lanyard nano, the book-sized tablet, and the widescreen TV replacement. Admittedly they support relatively passive uses primarily: music/voice on the nano; music, TV, and vidchat on the tablet; music, TV, vidchat, and feature films on the widescreen.

    Besides passive content, communications is the name of the game in the consumer sector. So the tablet needs iSight and iChat. No vidchat is a deal breaker for me.

    Moreover, it is time to revolutionize the textbook print market for primary and secondary grades; there is no justification for kids hauling 70 pounds of textbooks around instead of a 2 pound dynamic, multimedia learning tool.One of the discussion threads a while back focused on this form factor. Here’s one set of spex from that discussion, for a tablet that would concentrate its feature set on consumer multimedia functions, rather than pro or enterprise uses. The price has to fall between the iPhone and the MacBook.

  6. Lannis Temple on March 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Will you ever update your Learning Breakthrough experience?

  7. Lannis Temple on March 23, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Will you ever update your Learning Breakthrough experience?

  8. The Great Geek Manual » Apple iPad Link Round-Up on January 29, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    […] Apple iPad: Would you buy a tablet-sized iPhone? […]

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.