The Wonder Of Apple's Tablet

Comment

Screen shot 2009-12-25 at 1.56.24 PMIn 2007, just prior to its launch, I was absolutely positive I wasn’t going to buy an iPhone. My rationale was that I didn’t even like using a cellphone, so why would I want a $600 one? What I wanted was a touch screen iPod — basically, an iPhone without the phone. In other words, I wanted an iPod touch, but that didn’t exist yet, so I would sit back and wait, I told myself. Then came iPhone launch day: June 29, 2007. Curiosity about the launch day hoopla drove me to an Apple store. There was a line around the block just to get in. So again, there was no way I was getting an iPhone. But then I started to wonder why so many people were lined up for this device — what was I missing? A few hours later I returned to the Apple Store. I waited in a much shorter line to get in. I walked up to the iPhones out on display, picked one up, played with it for all of 10 seconds. I left the Apple store $600 poorer.

My point in telling that story is that all signs indicate that we’re closing in on another new Apple product, a tablet computer. And the hype around it is already palpable. But so is the skepticism among many — skepticism similar to what I felt with the iPhone. “Why would anyone want a tablet computer?” “It will be way too expensive, no one will buy it.” “This is all just nonsense Apple hype.” Those are a few of the more common reactions against the still-mysterious device. But I’m not going to be tricked again. Conventional wisdom suggests that Apple will not be able to succeed where so many others have failed. But Apple makes billions defying conventional wisdom.

The truth is that most of us don’t understand the allure of a tablet computer because they’ve all sucked up until now. It’s the exact same reason that I didn’t understand the iPhone at first. My cellphones leading up to the iPhone ranged from “okay” to “junk.” The idea of getting one with such a high price tag was insanity to me. But within seconds of using the iPhone, I was able to tell that Apple had made something completely different. It wasn’t a cellphone as I had known them. It redefined the category. And while there are no sure things in the tech world, I would bet that Apple’s tablet will do the same.

moses460If an outsider were to look at the tech news coverage of the past few days, they’d think there is an oddly disproportionate amount of Apple tablet talk. Why is that? The lazy answer is that everyone is a bunch of Apple fanboys. But the reality is that it’s dozens of blogs and all the mainstream media sites covering this news about a product which no one is even 100% sure exists. Everyone is covering it because there is a huge amount of interest about the device among each site’s readership. And it goes far beyond that. People outside the tech world, those who don’t ever read tech blogs, have been asking me about it recently. And Apple’s stock is at an all-time high based on the rumors of this device.

Part of it is that Apple has a sterling record with consumer-oriented products. Sure, there are some duds, like the Mighty Mouse. And yes, there are some slip-ups, like my new iLemon. But overall, Apple commands attention in the consumer space because more often than not, they nail it. Going deeper, Apple is not afraid to step outside of the traditional comfort zones to try to create a new product — even if others have failed there before, as is the case with tablets. While this stirs skepticism in some, in many more people, it creates a sense of wonder. What if Apple can do it right this time? It’s exciting partially because it’s no sure thing. It’s exciting because the payoff is potentially huge. By this time next year, we may have a whole new genre of computing. It’s an undiscovered country.

But it’s also familiar. There’s a quote from the first season of Mad Men that I think applies in this regard. “But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent,” Don Draper says leading up to his Kodak Carousel presentation. The core idea of a tablet is interesting to people on a fundamental level. At least as far back as Moses with the Ten Commandments, it has been a part of the human psyche. It’s something that couldn’t be simpler. It’s a slate that displays information. It’s not a computer with a mess of peripherals and/or physical buttons. If a media and web-centric computer were being designed today with no thought to what the computing norms of the past were, it would be a tablet.

It also points to the future of interacting with computers. The mouse and keyboard will one day die and everything will be touch and gesture-based.STAR TREK We’ll be living in a future with Minority Report, Star Trek, and Avatar interactive technology. To many of us, few things are more exciting. To others, that concept is foreign and as such, scary. Regardless, it will happen and the tablet computer is the latest, and perhaps most important step in a line of technology taking us there.

I think a lot of people understand that, even if they don’t realize it. That’s why we saw so much interest in the CrunchPad. It was to be a simple, touchscreen device that you could surf the web on. For many people, that’s more than enough of a computer.

And the truth is that Apple has already proven the concept. The iPhone is a tablet computer, just smaller. Recently, a former Apple employee was quoted in the New York Times as saying that much of the early work on the tablet exists today in the iPhone. The iPhone is the computer I use the most now day in and day out. And again, I never thought I’d want one. So while the immediate use of the tablet in our homes already riddled with computers may not be apparent just yet, I have no doubt that it will prove itself to be very useful.

I have no idea what the tablet will be called (Robin lays out a comprehensive tale of why it may be the “iSlate”), what its specs will be, or how much it will cost. But I’m not going to make the mistake of dismissing it like I did with the iPhone simply because its practicality isn’t immediately apparent. If it succeeds, it will likely redefine the role of computing in our lives just as the iPhone has. That’s exciting. And that’s why we care so much about it.

[images: 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures]

More TechCrunch

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

22 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck