The one reason why I would buy an Apple tablet
For a month, I've grappled with the "Why?" of an Apple tablet. Why should Apple make a tablet? Why could Apple succeed in a category where so many other companies have failed? Why would I --or anyone else -- want to buy an Applet tablet? No answer, despite all the plausible rumors about the device, could convince me "Why?" Until tonight. I thought of a "What?" that would make me interested in a portable tablet: Delivery of a unified content platform, mixing different media types and live information.
The rumors about Apple's tablet have focused on disparate content consumption (or creation) -- videos, music, ebooks and games among others. Big deal. These capabilities are available on PCs and smartphones or single-function devices. Disparate content on a slate does not excite my gadget geek cortex.
But what if all those functions were a single content platform, which, for example, the foundation already can be seen in AP and CNN iPhone apps, which mix together audio, text and video -- or entertainment app Tap Tap Revenge, which mixes music and gaming. Another example: iTunes LP and iTunes Extra, which mix additional content or visuals with albums or movies. Now take these concepts and serve up a live, mixed-content platform that relies on a persistent Internet connection, GPS, accelerometer and compass for spatial and location information -- what iPhone OS already offers to some extent today.
In this context, a digital astronomy textbook could incorporate typically static content with much more. Students could subscribe to various feeds, including Mars Rover videos on YouTube or astronomical Twitter accounts. Students from the same class could connect from a single Facebook group where to study and collaborate on research -- all within context of the astronomy textbook.
A professor could assign the "Star Trek" movie as a class project about the science of science fiction, which students could download and watch on the tablet. They could snip up to 30-second clips to annotate their research papers. At night, a student could hold up the tablet running the astronomy textbook to the night sky, where the device's camera, GPS, compass and accelerometer would orientate position for displaying a real-time constellations map.
What about biology, which was my field of study in college? Sociology, anthropology or literature? Why should a high school student use SparkNotes as opposed to reading the Odyssey, when the teacher could make the book so much more fun using supplemental materials all delivered to the tablet?
How about ebooks? Amazon has made a good business out of Kindle, but really how-- by taking the analog motif and making it digital. The process of reading a Kindle book really isn't that different from the physical object. Amazon failed to quantitatively improve the reading process through the digital medium. A tablet content platform could do so much more.
For example, a person buying Stephen King novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" also could have option of obtaining the "Shawshank Redemption" movie and music soundtrack as a single purchase. Live feeds could connect the ebook buyer to literary reviews -- both professional and casual -- and online communities at Facebook, among other places. Instead of just reading the latest Stephen King novel, readers could get into the mind of the author through his notes and other research used during the writing. All this interaction would be good for satisfying fans and building brand loyalty around authors and publishers.
I could go on and on. Nothing I've suggested is dramatically original thinking. Content creators have been bringing bits and pieces of these concepts together for years. But no one has put them together into a single content platform. Apple already has in iPhone OS and App Store the foundation to mix together static and live content of various types into a single software/hardware platform. Now that would be truly imaginative and potentially world changing.
I don't know what Apple will announce during its event later today. But I do know the world doesn't need another tablet. Humanity does need a truly natural content creation and consumption platform -- something that transcends the archaic printed page and makes content a seemingly living thing that responds to human needs for social interaction, entertainment and learning.
Now that's a product I would buy.