Originally Posted by Carniphage
I have been trying to work out what the justification of an iSlate is. Where is the market? After all, all previous tablet computers have been dismal failures.
Sorry, it's a long post, but here's my guess....
Computers, desktops and laptops are not really consumer products and never have been. Their origins date back to professional computer uses like Word Processing and Spreadsheets.
Despite attempts to make them easier to use. Personal Computers remain tools for professionals, which have only made a handful of concessions for non-professional usage.
The "professional tool" PC is not bad thing. We professionals like to create content. We want keyboards, and we want an exposed file system, and we want to plug stuff in. These are essential aspects to the personal computer and can never be dropped.
But these requirements come with three unavoidable problems.
1) The form factor. Physical bulk. Professional computers simply must have keyboards. They are useless without them. And even the slimmest computers are bulky when opened.
2) Power. You need a desktop-like CPU to run desktop apps. This means a low batter life.
3) Complexity. The desktop experience demands a windowing WIMP interface. With file systems, and settings and all.
For us technophiles, a full OS and GUI is something we hardly think of. It is a given. But such systems requires a lengthy boot process, and a level of technical expertise which is not universal. Some basic tasks are ridiculously difficult.
The flexible nature of software also brings with it the risk of viruses or configuration nightmares, which non-technical people just cannot solve. Your Granny can still not use your Mac. Your uncle can, but he has to trade it in every 18 months because it is "broken".
So can the computer be "re-thunk" for a non-professional market? Can you design a device for a market that cares more about consuming media than creating media. If you see kids with laptops, they watch movies, send text-like messages on facebook - they never open a file-system. They don't want to.
Perhaps there is a demand for a consumer-oriented computer appliance? It would offer all those computer benefits, we get on the notebook, but without these problems.
So the a CE computer would
1) Have a form factor which lends itself to media-consumption, reading, portability, bagability. A robust, slim, screen format which would take-up less space than a magazine. This means dumping the rarely needed keyboard. This means a chamfered edge. This means a scratch-proof screen. A round-edged slab that can take abuse.
2) Switch to a processor and GPU designed for portable hardware. Offering long battery life. Good performance, and offload heavy lifting to the GPU where possible. 8 hours use would be good. A couple of days stand-by would be handy too.
3) Create a user experience around media consumption and not media creation. This means a brain-dead easy UI. We are talking chimpanzee-level intelligence to operate. Want to Facebook. Poke Facebook. Want to watch a movie. Poke the movie. Want to videochat with the grandkids. Poke the grandkids pic, or the camera pic. Either will get you there. And it should not only be simple, it should be fun. Every action would be rewarded with clear visual feedback.
The market is full of people who already want to do this stuff, but currently are compelled to buy a pro device that offers too much. Too much complexity. Too much bulk. They buy notebooks but secretly they are confused why the screens are blank, and the useful stuff is hidden in a menu. They don't know why sometimes it does not work. Or what some of those settings do.
A consumer-targetted device has the potential to split the computer market in two. With professional media-creation computers on one side, and consumer media consumption computers on the other.
Done well, and priced like a netbook, such a device could get to consumers who previously would never consider buying a computer. It could sell into schools to replace textbooks. It would make the Kindle look dull. It would make netbooks look like something from a previous century. Granny would have one as a photoframe that lets her Skype the grandkids.
And for us professionals who love our notebooks. We will keep on buying them. We demand the flexibility. But when we are on the commute, we might look enviously at all those dullards reading the newspaper on their tablets.