iPhone Tablet predictions
Originally written: Apr 29, 2009:

Ok, I've been thinking about this and reading news, rumors, and other predictions for quite some time, but I think I'd like to make my own predictions about the supposed
forthcoming Apple iPhone Tablet.  First of all, the basic rumor of an Apple Tablet has been ongoing for quite some time.  Apple has said  they're not interested in doing one at this time because they're waiting for the tablet market to settle down.  This is their usual method of operating, of course; wait for the market to show a clear direction, then come in with some small new innovation which truly changes the experience and makes the technology much more useful to more people.  Tablets have never been profitable for any company which has released one.  People seem to think they want one, but in the final analysis, using one is always cumbersome and eventually the product is dropped due to lack of interest.

Let's review what Apple has from the past which they could bring to the table.  First, remember that Apple actually introduced the first version of a "Palm Pilot" long before the Palm existed; the "Newton".  It used handwriting recognition and didn't do it very well, but there are still many people who would swear that the Newton was a wonderful device!  The "Inkwell" software which was used there is still owned by Apple and is actually a current part of MacOS X.  If you plug in a USB tablet device, you'll see it under "Software Preferences".  Apple's "Print recognizer" has also been part of MacOS X since 10.2.  Apple has
many tablet related patents.

Back in 2004, Steve Jobs
referenced a new "Apple PDA".  Many people think this device was simply never shipped.  Others have since related stories about the origins of the iPhone stating that the phone started life as a prototype "Newton" or "Tablet" and later had a phone added as well.  If this last story is true, then the 2004 "Apple PDA" was most likely simply the original iPhone.

So, where are we today?  Apple has a new "Unibody" construction method which seems to be widely recognized as the best way to produce a large, thin, device, such as a laptop; or maybe a tablet.  There's a rumor that
Apple will be using the newly introduced Intel "Atom" chip in a new device.  Could this be a "Larger, 7 x 9 tablet"?  We know that there is a market for a MacOS X Tablet.  One company already produces them by purchasing the MacBook systems from Apple, then modifying it into the first "Modbook".  Apple has been pushing for a patent on an innovative tablet docking station.  There have also, recently, be rumors of a new MacBook Pro 17" which would have a builtin battery such as the iPhone and all iPod models.  Does this make sense for a laptop, especially a large one which would use a lot of power on the large screen and would be expected to perform heavy graphics work?  I don't think so.  Could this rumor be confused and actually be talking about a builtin, long lasting, battery for a tablet device?  That would make a lot more sense.

Finally, there's "
Haptic Feedback".  Many people, including people inside Apple, have been doing research on this for years and it's beginning to finally pay off.  Samsung has a few haptic feedback phones; the "Armani" and the "Instinct".  I've even heard from some people that the "Instinct" could be a real "iPhone killer", mostly due to the keyboard being easier to use because of the feedback.  Apple has a patent on haptic feedback touchscreens.

So, what market would Apple be targetting with a new Tablet computer?  They always have one primary market in mind for any new device.  The device usually appeals to more than the original targetted market, but in order to succeed Apple knows you must have at least one good sized market for which the device is a prefect match.  Well, let's take a look at how well the
Amazon Kindle has done.  Even though the device leaves much to be desired, it generally has been fairly well received.  So much so that Amazon is working on a new version.  Amazon has opened a whole online eBook market with this device.  As a matter of fact, eBooks are becoming so popular that you can get a reader and books for your iPhone as well.  The biggest problem with reading a book on your iPhone is simply the size of the screen.  (Wasn't there a mention above of a larger version of the iPhone?)

Can you see where this is going?  Apple introduces the new "iTablet", based on the same, proven, iPhone OS.  It runs all iPhone applications, including games, which can all be purchased already via the Apple "App Store".  At the same time, this new device is perfect for use around the house because, like an iPhone, it wouldn't need to be charged very often at all, lasting at least 1-2 days, if not more, on a single charge.  It would be the perfect small, take along, device for listening to Podcasts (even
remotely controlling other iTunes machines over the network), reading web pages (easier, especially for older people, due to the larger screen), and, yes, reading eBooks.  By using Haptic Feedback, the on-screen keyboard would have a good enough feel to be very usable, and the larger form factor means the keys would be drawn closer to normal size, allowing touch typing.  It would have a dock station where it would plug in to be recharged while allowing use of any USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the same as a normal desktop computer.  Finally, Apple would extend the "App" and "Music" store to also include "eBook" sales and would provide an eBook reader (or simply use one of the already existing ones).  The device, being about the same size as a large format paperback book, would be perfect for travelers who read a lot and don't want to take heavy books with them, especially since it would run so long on battery power!  Finally, Apple could do something which would help education by signing an agreement with major publishers to provide eBook format textbooks at a reduced price for currently enrolled, full-time, students!  Since the device would be manufactored using Apple's "Unibody" construction process, it would be sturdy enough to handle being dumped into a backpack multiple times a day.  Finally, students could take notes on a portable laptop which would have enough battery time to last the entire day, and we can say "goodbye" to all of the noise of hundreds of fingers hitting keys, due to touch typing on a completely silent software keyboard with the assistance of haptics.

Can you see it all coming together?  I can.  I hope I'm correct.  I want one!

Let me leave you with a video showing basically what I think Apple is designing. (Of course, this is a much thicker and clunkier version from Microsoft back in 2006.)
Microsoft's Origami revisited?

/raj
Why did Apple buy a chip company?
Originally written: May 9, 2008:
Ok, I have to get this one out there before I'm proven right or wrong and I keep thinking about the fact that I haven't written anything on this topic, so let's get it "off my chest" now.
There has been a lot of talk about the recent purchase of the chip fabrication company, "P. A. Semi". Various people have made predictions that Apple is interested in making their own chips instead of purchasing from Intel. There are other wild predictions that Apple is interested in using the new capability in order to produce chips for future iPhones, or other future products, and thus saving money on production and bringing down prices in retail far below what competitors could accomplish.
While all of these predictions may have some merit, they also have problems. I don't really believe that one small chip fab. company can really make Intel clones which run anywhere near as well, as fast, and as efficiently as the true Intel, or even AMD. There's a tremendous amount of knowledge of the internals of the Intel design at Intel, which makes them capable of producing "better" chips (for whatever definition of "better" happens to be their liking at the moment) and producing them a lot faster and more efficiently than any other company. AMD can pull it off these days because they, also, have a long history of producing Intel compatible chips. They didn't have that history initially, and it took them a while to come up-to-speed, but now that they have it, they're doing pretty well. Could P. A. Semi also produce thus chips? Sure, given time and probably a lot more employees and money. Would it be worth while for Apple to do this? I don't think so. Apple needs to spend their time and money on other things such as design, software, building new markets.
Similarly, I'm not really convinced that Apple would be interested in using a chip company to produce new chips for their iPhones. Maybe a smaller, specialized, chips, but not the main processor. I admit that this idea has a lot more going for it than the Intel idea, but I'm still not convinced due to the other arguments regarding investments of time and money into a business which is new to them.
So, what
is Apple planning to do with this new capability? Well, let's look at the big problem which Apple has had for many years now and which still plagues them today; third party hardware. Has anyone read about the latest issues with "Psystar"? Well, the problems with third party hardware actually go a long way back. A long time ago, Apple actually tried out the idea of allowing other companys to build hardware and run MacOS. It seemed "cool" for a while, but ultimately there were problems with compatibility and also simply with "look and feel". Apple likes to make sure the customer has the correct "Apple experience" with all "Apple products", or actually with any product which is perceived as running an "Apple system". Ultimately, if someone produces "crap" and runs MacOS on it, that "crap" is perceived as connected with Apple and reflects badly on them and on their other products. This only makes sense and one need look no farther than some of the "Windows crap" out there so that this is true.
Now that Apple has released the iPhone, their problems are continuing with this new hardware. There are lots of third party iPhone applications as well as third party iPhone knockoffs being sold, mostly in East Asia countries. Apple would really like to have better control of all of this "crap" and disallow unofficial hardware and/or software from working with their products.
I believe Apple is very interested in producing a software/hardware combination which would ultimately lock down each part of their product and put an end to the whole "third party problem" once and for all. With a chip company in-house, they will be able to ultimately produce a small "Apple chip" which can be integrated into all of their products. Their software won't run if the chip is not there and responding correctly, and perhaps the chip would monitor software running on the device and disallow access to memory or to the bus if that software doesn't respond correctly to the chip. Apple will ultimately have the complete control they desire and will be able to put an end to the "third party problem" for good.
Could some other company reverse-engineer the "Apple chip" and produce their own fake Apple equipment? Possibly or possibly not. There are many complex cryptographic systems which could be used, with encodings which continually change with time. There are even methods of reprogramming the chip automatically with each software update. I don't think it would be too hard for Apple to stay ahead of those who would try to break the system.
The final question, of course, is what this will do to Apple's market. Yes, it would go a long way toward guaranteeing the "Apple experience" and securing the end-user systems. However, I believe it would also alienate many "Geek" customers who like to "do more" with their equipment and "extend" the capabilities in various ways. If Apple equipment were completely locked down, I believe Apple would see their market share ultimately decrease.
We'll have to wait and see what happens! It should be interesting!