Saturday, 8 August 2009

Could the new iTablet actually be an iPod touch HD?

With the rumosphere buzzing once again about Apple's much rumored tablet, and some analysts chatting like excited school girls, it's time for MacPredictions to gear up the SVU (special visuals unit) and crank out another mockup.

The tablet is a bit of a riddle. Why would Apple release one? They sat out on the whole pen-based computing thing, with Jobs pouring scorn on Gate's pet project (the Tablet PC). On that occasion, Apple's instincts proved correct. So what has changed now?

Earlier this year, most speculation focused on the idea of a touch-screen device as Apple's answer to the growing netbook category. The problem with this picture is that netbooks are cheap to manufacture, whereas Tablet PCs are quite the opposite. Something didn't add up.

Add to this the strange idea that Apple may be prepping Snow Leopard as a touch-based OS (based upon rather far-fected speculation about supposed touch-friendly features such as Dock Exposé). This blog has never subscribed to the idea of a touched based version of Mac OS X. It would just be too confusing for developers (both within Apple, and 3rd parties). Apple has just one touch-based platform - the iPhone OS, and that's plenty enough.

Fast forward a few months, and reflect upon the awesome success of iPod touch combined with games on the app store, and things become a little clearer. All that Apple needs to do is introduced resolution-independence to the iPhone OS (which will surely have to come at some point anyway), and they can then launch a true PSP/DS killer in the form of an iPod touch HD - a big brother to the regular iPod touch.

It would be compatible with all existing iPhone games, plus a whole slew of new HD games. It could also play HD movies - and completely undermine Microsoft's upcoming Zune HD in the process.

Suddenly the idea of a tablet from Apple starts to make more sense.


  1. Hi Graham!

    Congratulations with your book, i like very much what it's about.

    I think this product will come in September. However i think it will be shaped a bit differently. I go for a screen size of 6.5" with 960x480 pixels, same size as three vertical iPods next to eachother. This shape is still quite pocketable and great for movies, games, books, and internet. It will run an extended iPhone OS which better be called iTouch OS. I don't think the device will be called iPod touch HD because it really is more than that. It looks more like the heir of the Newton MessagePad so who knows it will be called iPad.

    By the way, i think your illustration is not well done. I made you another!


  2. Hey, nice idea!
    One thing though, it won't be able to play original app store games, as the screen dimensions and res is wrong. I was thinking more like this:


  3. Hi Damian,

    I don't see why it couldn't play legacy games. The solution would be to keep the aspect ratio the same as the current iPhone (as opposed to Cosmi's alternative shape). If the resolution is double the iPhone resolution - then legacy games would simple be supported by doubling up pixels (i.e. half resolution). This is what Palm did when they doubled resolution in Palm OS 5.0.

    The iPhone is currently HVGA (320x480 pixels) - so I guess the iPod touch HD would be 640x960.


  4. I think it’ll end up looking more like the mockup that the Piper Jaffray suits came up with:

    A quick review of iPhone mockups prior to its unveiling show shortsighted everybody was about its presumable iPod-esque UI. A touchscreen clickwheel? Remember that? This time around everyone is thinking jumbo iPhone. This is exactly where Apple’s underground R&D lab dazzles us with something out of left field.

    In essence the iPad should be a progression of iPhone OS, that may see real multitasking, 3D animations, and handle Front Row features that may well replace the forgotten AppleTV, and come with HDMI outputs via the dock.

    Given the App Store boom, one of the challenges was figuring out how to retrofit iPhone applications into the new device. Most iPhone apps were designed with an HVGA screen in mind, so scroll lists would render excessive margins, since it was scaled for a 3.5” screen. I don’t even want to imagine how awfully pixelated iPhone games would look like on a 10” screen. The only type of iPhone app that would look good on a larger screen is a word processor.

    Having given up on the one-size-fits-all strategy, Apple is inevitably going to have to offer concurrent versions for both iPhone OS and iPad. For developers, it could be a chance to produce HD games with the incentive of premium pricing, √† la iTunes Plus. Twice the price and more profits, which in turn means more games and apps that feel like a full version. That‘s exactly what iPad would be all about.

    Apple didn’t spend 2 years engineering a project that was just bigger. If we were merely talking about an iPod touch XL, then its resolution would’ve been quickly upscaled and rushed off to manufacturing to pounce on the netbooks way back in 2007.

    In that case, the iPod touch was Apple’s interim netbook contender. With rising Windows 7 licensing fees, Microsoft is playing right into the iPad’s rumored pricing sweet spot of $600-$800. With the super-$1000 notebook segment secured, it makes sense for Apple to go after the ordinary PC users that don’t need 64-bit to check their email, bliggity blogs, facey spaceys, and tweetie pages.

  5. Interesting, Chuck.

    I think Apple is going to conquer the netbook market from two sides. On one side, by introducing a bigger tablet like the 7-inch iPad for around $600-$700, which might drop soon. On the other side, by introducing the lightest notebook ever, the new 11-inch MacBook air with 16:9 screen and black bezel, for around $900-$1000.

    People talk much about tablets, and i think they do because they feel this device really is going to come soon. However, they fail to imagine how this device would have to look to actually work. So i made some more pics:


  6. Cosmi,

    One of the main reasons why Apple didn't give in and just produce a miniature version of any of their notebooks is because they don't want to dilute the value of OS X by running it on very limited chipsets.

    In fact, according to Reuters, Apple ordered the 10" panels some time ago. Wintek model# EE-1044-IN-W5C with view area dimensions of 8.6" x 6.5"

    It should end up looking quite different from the iPod touch.

  7. Hi Graham

    I'm hoping it might be more like the Microsoft Courier Tablet demo'd a while back on Gizmodo. With regards to content this viedo goes a long way to show how magazines could use the format, see if you reconise any of the usability...

  8. Hi Dereck,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I'm dubious about the Courier concepts - I think it's all concept and no product. It got out somewhat prematurely and the interface is not really thought through.

    I'm also dubious about Bonnier's Mag+ et al. I don't believe digital magazines have a future as a proprietary format - I can see from a publishers perspective that it would be nice to have a DRM/Kindle/iTunes style format for distributing magazines, but I think we have the web now, and that's going to beat other formats for periodicals, any day.

    But then, I've always been a contrarian, as you know ;)