I’m almost ashamed to contribute to the horrendous noise surrounding Apple’s pre-mythical tablet that is supposedly heading our way next Wednesday.
But I have an idea about its purpose and functionality that I haven’t heard before, so in the hope of gaining a point or two of that proverbial blog-pundit cred, I’m gonna put this out there.
It’s pretty clear that Apple has let its “hobby”, Apple TV, wallow for the past few years (but, for the record, let it be known that I absolutely adore my Apple TV). There’s nary a hint of rumour surrounding an update. Yet it’s equally clear that Apple’s tablet (actually, I’ll go with the company’s registered trademark and call it the iSlate, as awful a name as that is) has been in the lab for several years, just waiting for mass technology to catch up with it.
So I imagine the iSlate to be, in part, Apple TV’s replacement. The Son of Apple TV, if you will.
The iSlate will act as a conduit for iTunes to other display media.
On the one hand, you’ll be able to watch a movie on the iSlate.
But with a simple swipe, you’ll be able to “toss” the video stream to another display, like your TV screen.
The iSlate will act as a conduit for the stream, and it will second as a control device for the video screen, even as it gains the ability to augment that content with new information.
Apple will also release an upgraded Airport Express with an HDMI output port to support the streaming of HD video from the iSlate. It will be insanely diminutive in physical size (think of small box of matches) and cost about $69.
Some existing Apple technologies will be supported right away. Apple TV will immediately gain the ability to support Wifi HD streaming, so faithful owners of this device won’t have to buy a new Airport Express (or is that wishful thinking?).
And iPhone OS 4.0 will have the feature built in, so you’ll be able to stream either on-board video to your TV from your iPhone, or enable your iPhone to act like a conduit between iTunes and your TV.
I hope that Apple opens this up (though this is doubtful) to any video source on your iPhone or iSlate, enabling you to tune into, say, an iPhone Boxee app or a live CBC TV app video stream.
Even better, though, is that content developers will be able to author mixed-media content specifically for what would potentially be a multi-screen environment.
You could, for example, watch a live stream of a football game on the big screen and have access to stats, manual instant-replays, live forums, Twitter, and other content on your iPhone or iSlate.
Furthermore, Bonjour-based internet access to your iTunes library will become a reality, so you’ll be able to access all your content from wherever you are.
The point of such a feature would, of course, be to kill the set-top box, but also to enable you to socialize with your video media.
You’ll be able to go to a friend’s house and, as long as they have a new Airport Express or Apple TV (a product which will be discontinued after the release of the iSlate) hooked up to their TV, you’ll be able to use your iSlate or iPhone to hook into your iTunes library at home and stream video to the big screen.
Of course, this is not all the iSlate will do. It will also be an excellent display medium for former print media, as is the most popular concept. But it will be so much more than an e-book reader, and open up new opportunities for content publishers to develop cross-media content that utilizes potentially multiple outputs simultaneously.
One more minor prediction: iWork 2010 will work in a similar fashion. You’ll be able to work on a document on the iSlate, but when you come near a Mac, you’ll be able to toss the document onto its screen with a single gesture. Furthermore, the iSlate will act as a keyboard and touchpad (if you like) when you’re working on documents on your Mac.
Finally, price point. The iSlate’s base model with 32 GB of memory must ship for less than $500 to really take off. So $499. A 64 GB model will cost an extra $200, and we’ll see a 128 GB model debut in about 8 months.
There you have it, my own little contribution to the mass hysteria surrounding the iSlate.
You may all now return to your normal, pre-iSlate lives.