Saturday, 18 April 2009

iPod Tablet [Mockup]

WIth the imminent release of iPhone 3.0, Apple is introducing landscape mode to all of its key apps. MacPredictions believes that this gives us a clue to the format of Apple's much-rumored low cost tablet.

Imagine an iPhone in landscape mode with the keyboard active. Now imagine that the screen is twice as deep - so it becomes 480x640 (VGA format, protrait) rather than the normal iPhone 320x480. It's not such a stretch to imagine this, as the illustration above demonstrates. You end up with a tablet capable of presenting 42 iPhone apps on a single springboard screen.

What's the significance of this? Screen density. As technology moves forward, screens become increasingly dense - that is, more pixels are packed into the same amount of space. As a consequence, the user interface elements become smaller. This doesn't matter so much on a Mac, where for example, the high density screen of a 17" MacBook Pro shows everything much smaller than the lower density screen of the MacBook Air. But on an iPhone, the size of the user interface matters a great deal, since the widgets must be the appropriate size to be operated by fingers.

Palm once solved this problem by leaping to a double density format. With the Tungsten T, Palm effectively doubled the resolution of their display from 160x160 pixels to 320x320, whilst the physical dimensions of the device remained the same. They were even able to provide backwards compatibility to Palm OS 4.0 applications, by offering a lower resolution mode (effectively two-for-one pixels).

Apple could perform a similar trick with the new iPhone 3.0 software for its tablet offering. By doubling the screen resolution, they can enable their key apps to take advantage of the higher resolution screen, whilst providing support for lower resolution iPhone apps. Moving forwards, they could encourage their app developers to support both native resolutions (320x480 and 480x640).

The really nice thing about such a device is that it could be manufactured relatively cheaply, since it would run the lightweight iPhone OS, rather than a full version of Mac OS X. It could also be touch screen without the bother of trying to work out how to retrofit Multi-touch onto Mac OS X (a seemingly intractable problem).

Estimated dimensions 85 x 120 x 10mm

Don't forget to check out this visual in full resolution to get a feel for all its VGA goodness.


  1. Very interesting, Graham. Your point about trying to retrofit OSX to a complete multi-touch interface definitely makes for the coming tablet to run the same kind of OS as the iPhone. It's easy to use, people know it, and it works.

    But why call it the iPod tablet? It's much more than just an iPod. I think Apple would want to differentiate it out of their ipod line and make it fit with some kind of small portable/netbook. I don't know, though. It's like, I've always thought why does Apple continue to call iTunes, iTunes, when it's more like your iMedia station with books, movies, tv shows, rentals, trailers, and now the App store?

    I don't what my last point had to do with your tablet mockup, which is pretty excellent, but I just thought like mentioning that.


  2. Hi Justin. Thanks for the feedback. I struggled with the name a bit. I agree about iPod being a bit limiting, but I guess Apple has been working on broadening the scope of the iPod product line, by positioning the iPod touch as a games device in their advertising, so this is arguably just another extension. Trouble is, the device is not an iPhone or a Mac - so it has to be called something. I was tempted to call it the all new iBook (an oblique reference to the netbook category, to which it would be Apple's response, but I thought this would just be confusing, given the history of that trademark). The truth is, of all Apple's various lines, this one belongs in the iPod camp.

  3. I agree.

    There's the Mac line, the iPhone, and the iPod line. If called the iPod Tablet, it would have a strong title from "iPod". It could be called "iPad", though.

    I'm lovin' this site. Bookmarked.

  4. I really like this concept.

    I'm not sure if this will really be the pro tablet that people have asked for, or the netbook exactly, but it would be a great addition to the iPhone/iPod line. The keyboard would be big enough to easily type on and the screen would be big enough to read a book.

    A kindle competitor on steroids, and it would still be almost pocketable.

  5. I think the rumored 10-inch touchscreen device is not an extension of the iPod/iPod touch line but rather Apple's mini-tablet and netbook rival.

    Jobs did said if Apple were to venture into this "nascent market," they already have "some interesting ideas." That all but confirms multitouch as primary input.

    What makes the iPhone/iPod touch apps so useful is the miniaturization of features, specifically for a 3.5" screen. For an unpocketable 10" screen device, you'd surely want much more than additional screen space and read-only document capabilities.

    What if it had the following features?

    -Snow Leopard touch OS
    -Full Multi-touch.
    -System-wide text-to-speech text input/commands.
    -iTunes eBooks (Featuring massive support for academia).
    -GPS (Tablet can dock in select automobiles' dashboards).
    -MobileMe disk storage.

    Based on the iPhone OS's touch UI, this new mini-tablet would replicate many mundane tasks/procedures everywhere. In places such as Congress/Senate chambers, Universities, Police vehicles, hospitals, and POS, an Apple tablet would make a huge impact because of its computer-oriented user experience.

  6. If Apple develops a touch version of Snow Leopard, this won't be for low-cost tablets. There's no low-cost Windows tablet, after all, and I suspect Apple would struggle to make one. Also, to produce a touch version of Snow Leopard would be a huge undertaking, and it would take Apple into a product category that is not doing well, and that Jobs has scorned in the past.

    A low cost tablet based on the iPhone OS is an altogether new proposition. It requires less powerful hardware to run than Mac OS X, and can therefore be produced at lower cost. Who knows whether it would be a hit, but my thinking is that the extra screen space would have a significant impact of the web browsing and e-mail reading experience - so much so that it could become a whole new category of device.

  7. Jobs also famously dismissed video capabilities, only to later launch the iPod Video.

    Supposedly, the iTablet's been under development for quite a long time. Also, Apple's been transitioning to notebook gesture computing, so if the tablet does arrive, its controls won't be as disruptive as people suppose.

    As for the pricing, Jobs said "Apple's DNA doesn't allow [them] to sell a "$500 computer that isn't a piece of junk." I guess he meant the entire system. Anyways, an aptly priced $800 iTablet that packs more computing features than iPhone, yet not as fully fledged as the conventional $999 white MacBook, seems reasonable enough.

    Factor in cell operators' data plan/tariff subsidies and the price can be within the $549-$649 range.

    Imho, if Apple enters the netbook fray, their play will be far more ambitious, and as typically non-conformist.

  8. I take your point about Job's track record on dismissing video only to later embrace it. His initial views LCD iMac design (CPU in the pedestal, vs behind the display) also springs to mind. Never say never.

    I'm interested that you're assuming the tablet will come with a cell operator's data plan - I wish they'd offer built-in 3G with the MacBook range as well. My guess is that Apple hates partnering with mobile networks, and only does it as a necessary evil on handsets - they'll try to avoid it with other product categories, since they prefer to keep the customer relationship all to themselves.

  9. The data plan/tariff contract would be an optional and easy method of reducing the base price.

    Never say never...
    Steve's remark about the iMac's CPU placement, was pure salesmanship in his most spectacular computer unveiling to date.

    In my opinion, the iMac G4 was the most brilliantly designed desktop ever, no matter how technically impractical and spatially inefficient it may have been.

  10. As much larger as it is in some ways, this is still significantly narrower than an iPod touch turned landscape mode. People with tiny pockets that barely will fit an iPod touch vertically might have no place for this device, but it would certainly be pocketable to me!

    Make it pretty much the same hardware as the iPod touch (might need a bit of a graphics boost to drive the larger screen) and give it a nice big battery in the extra space, and I'll buy at least one at $299-$399, maybe even more than one :-)

  11. ...although I really like the mock-up, and would love such a device, I have one piece of criticism...

    I am sick to freaking death of the 'say hello to ...' nonsense on every Apple mock up. That thing is done. WAY done. Its worse than 'think different' and just as lame.

    Lets ALL of us, come to terms with the death of the 'say hello to' tagline. PLEASE!

  12. Graham, I love your concept. But: I think the key issue that Apple will use to decide on form factor is whether the device is to be "pocketable" or not.

    If yes, then it will be smaller: between the current Touch and what you have depicted.

    If no, it will be bigger and less square than yours. I'm okay with either. Or both.

  13. it is looking good and nice but why not add a then camera ????);

  14. Le Dawni Rabinowitwtz21 November 2011 at 23:46

    Haha, I'm posting this in 2011. Lol. Ol. Lolol. Olololol.