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Summary:

This is the fourth in a series of 7 posts in the 7 days prior to Apple’s January 27 media event in which I explore various possibilities for an Apple Tablet and other potential announcements. If the Wall Street Journal is correct, Apple’s event on January 27 […]

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This is the fourth in a series of 7 posts in the 7 days prior to Apple’s January 27 media event in which I explore various possibilities for an Apple Tablet and other potential announcements.

If the Wall Street Journal is correct, Apple’s event on January 27 will be about its “mobile products,” and not just the tablet. The current lineup includes iPods, iPhones, and MacBooks, and just about everyone expects the iSlate, iPad or Canvas to be the new addition. Its Airport line of Wi-fi routers enables wireless access to the net, and Apple has mobile software products offered under the MobileMe brand, and iWork.com. It’s building a large data center in North Carolina, presumably to handle more intensive cloud computing needs, and Apple is expected to move into cloud-based media storage in part based on its recent purchase of LaLa.

In total, Apple has an impressive array of mobile products, so there is potentially much to discuss. And while the focus of attention leading up to the event is on the potential tablet, I expect a broader discussion of Apple’s mobile products in general, and how they work together in particular.

The hardware of the tablet is likely to be much like an enlarged iPhone or iPod touch. The software will be specifically designed, however, for the larger screen, form factor, and intended purpose of consuming media. Like the iPhone and Apple TV, the tablet will likely be positioned as a satellite to a Mac that operates as a hub. It will have enough room to store movies, music, photos, and multimedia so it will be useful even when not connected to a network, but will also seamlessly connect to local networks and the Internet for streaming media from other devices or the cloud.

iTunes Sharing and Home Sharing…Not So Much

The current state of sharing content among Apple devices on a home network is a bit jumbled. With iTunes, you can share your library, allowing other devices to stream your content. But Apple recently enabled a new feature called Home Sharing, which allows multiple Macs to share content by making duplicate copies of media and apps. With iTunes sharing, devices must be on the same local network at the same time. With Home Sharing, each device has its own copy of the file, so they can be anywhere. But Home Sharing requires different devices to log into the iTunes Store with the same account, and family accounts are not supported (or at least it didn’t work for us). In our experience, Home Sharing, still in its infancy, is unreliable. Neither iTunes nor iPhoto are very good at enabling multiple users to access the same libraries.

This is where I expect to see a great deal of emphasis for Apple’s mobile products, including the tablet. Apple needs to rethink how users share devices and content in a household with a fresh approach that has the elegance and simplicity of many of their products. Sharing should simply be sharing, with various levels of sharing available based on permissions and proximity, as opposed to two different features with different names, different requirements and different levels of reliability. Apple already has the technology to enable seamless sharing of content among devices and users via these existing sharing features, Remote Access, and Screen Sharing, among other features.

Seamless, Intelligent Sharing, Rethought From the Ground Up

I see Apple taking several major steps away from its personal computer foundation and toward consumer electronics, following a trend that first appeared with the introduction of the iPod in 2001. It will be possible to buy a new Apple TV as a true media center, and iPhones, iPods, and tablets in particular as the Apple TV’s display. Content will “live” on the Apple TV, but can be consumed by any device on the network. Media will be able to be copied to the devices for use when not connected to the local network. All members of an Apple Family account will have permissions to access all media associated with the account. Users will have the option to store duplicate copies of their media on the cloud and access them from anywhere in the world.

Virtually all of this is possible today, but the experience is convoluted. The introduction of the tablet is the seminal event that gives Apple the opportunity to completely rethink how media and apps are used and shared among users and devices.

  1. Very interesting! I guess Apple has a new opportunity to use their slogan “It just works.”

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  2. [...] about iTunes: 7 for 7: Apple TV and iTunes Integration AKPC_IDS += [...]

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  3. Well, if this isn’t how it’s going to happen, then it really ought to be – hopefully either Apple have beaten you to it or they’re paying very close attention to their various blog sites. Fingers crossed, eh?

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  4. I second that. With Apples continuing forays into consumer electronics it’s becoming more and more obvious that the experience is still very much tied to the “personal” aspect of personal computing. After all, that’s what Apple has done for many years.

    The gagdets and (to an even larger extent) the content that we own in my household are not tied to a specific person though. I want to watch an epsiode of House on my Apple TV with my wife – and I don’t want to care about the fact who bought it with what account in the iTunes Store. I want to look at pictures of our toddler on my iPhone while my wife wants to see them in her iPhoto library as well.

    If Apple finds out a way to make this all seamless then they’ve hit the jackpot. The whole family is tied to the Apple ecosystem then. If our MobileMe-Accounts our iPhoto libraries, our iPhones, AppleTVs, iSlates all live together in perfect harmony all four people in my household will be loyal customers for years and years to come. Switching the family over to a different provider (and honestly, none comes to mind) at this point will be as difficult as changing the IT infrastructure in a corporation. Apple, the family market is yours for the taking!

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  5. Yup, Achim hit the nail on the head, its all about collaboration and sharing of content. The challenge for Apple is controlling it. If every user was honest and piracy not a problem then this whole process would be a breeze you could just open it all up under trust, sadly its a fine balance between protecting copyright material of the providers (otherwise if they don’t feel their content is protected they won’t let apple distribute it) and giving people the freedom to do what they want with their content and sharing accordingly.

    The next step will be all content in a cloud that we can share on any device with our family. A little way off just yet but in the meantime, as mentioned above, if Apple get it right, no one can match the cross integration so for people to switch to another provider would be, not just pointless as Apple will do it so well but difficult too.

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    1. hayayayayayayyaya

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  6. Excellent article. You’ve managed to give some direction and clarity to my own jumbled thoughts! The vision you describe, or something like it with the same emphasis, has to be the future.
    Probably like many here, I get asked to help out friends & family new to the platform. One of the most frequent issues is sharing a common iPhoto library between users, such an obvious request people can’t believe there isn’t a checkbox for it! Sure, you can do it, but it’s not straight forward, Apple needs to find a solution to this & other legitimate media sharing arrangements.
    Lets hope the iSlate/Tablet/pad – is the start of a fresh approach.

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  7. Apple has a good range of products in this area that they could do so much with but they are moving too slowly. They are lagging behind and people will look elsewhere. MobileMe can be so much more, a cornerstone to the cloud, it needs to get updated more often, not once a year for small features that others have had for ages.

    eg
    iWork/iPhoto and anything else that can should be up in the cloud by now with industry leading features fully integrated with MobileMe and the native apps.

    iPhone should have fully editing capabilities for at least iWork formats, a PDF viewer that sizes text automatically for the screen, etc

    There is so much more. Apple really needs to get a move on.

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  8. Sharing files with iTunes is user-unfriendly and unreliable, but at least it’s not entirely impossible. But just consider a household with several macs AND several iPhones. It quickly becomes a nightmare.

    Adding a mac tablet into the mix can only complicate matters further, especially if the tablet is as closed and restricted as an iPhone.

    At least with iTunes you can copy your files outside of iTunes to another mac and import them there.

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  9. I think the iSlate can be a great device for mobile TV. Maybe the iSlate will use MediaFlo for TV reception.

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  10. I posted a comment earlier which seems to have disappeared? Maybe this Blog really does censor comments…
    At any rate I stated that the newest apple devise actually belongs in the category that I call “TABSLATES”. Tabslates are basically handheld computers that are larger than IPHONES but smaller than Laptops. Apple’s new tabslate will probably be called IPAD and will definitely change the way we all use computers. There are some rumors out there that state this product could have sales over 10 Million in it’s first year. By the way, if anyone knows how to contact Steve, tell him we have the domains for tabslate.com, mytabslate.com, and itabslate.com available…The tabslates are coming…the tabslates are coming…

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    1. Lol, way to be subtle, mate.

      Tabslate? In my humble opinion, that’s got to be one of the lamest things I’ve heard. Also, there’s no point in trying to categorise devices anymore, because they’re quickly blending in functionality.

      Apple’s new device will not be called the iPad. If they do, I’ll eat my hat. Apple can’t risk being made fun of.

      Apple’s new device may or may not change the way we use computers. It might change the way we think about human-computer interaction, certainly. But to say that it will definitely change the way we use computers is going a bit far. If you want to learn about something that will change the way we use computers, check out the wikipedia article on quantum computing.

      And the reason your previous comment was deleted is the same reason your current one is also a candidate for deletion: you’re trying to advertise some domain names you’ve bought. You might ultimately find some buyers, but “tabslate” is just too odd for Apple to care about.

      Have a good day.

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    2. Holy crap. They called it the iPad.

      I’ve been pwned well and good.

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  11. Apple TV and the Apple mini missed the mark and my guess is that a 10″ tablet when cooler heads prevail, will receive lukewarm consumer acceptance. Giving up a real keyboard is a big deal and when you have to plunk down over $500 (my guess) to do so, the cool factor will give away to cooler heads. I like all the hype and competitive pressure that may force others to take a bite out of all the hype that apple has generated. Better yet those who buy a tablet will likely be dumping their I-Touch on e-bay and my daughter is just hoping that is the case. I can use a spare Netbook for myself and expect to see price reductions in the next 60 days.

    Let’s see if Apples desire for drama works or backfires.

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  12. Updating Apple TV to officially surf (safari) and screen syncing it with a new tablet or even Iphone/ipodtouch could have a dramatic affect when browsing the internet on a large flat screen TV as this can suffer from many of the same draw backs (text too small/unclear to read) as with an Iphone which it solved with multi touch (pinching etc.) By controlling an Apple TV browser with a tablet/iphone would finally mean that Large flat screen browsing from the comfort of ones Sofa could finally be done without compromised (unlike my PS3). I may be missing some new tech development which covers this and will be only to happy to be corrected/enlightened in some way.

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  13. [...] 7 for 7: Apple TV and iTunes Integration This is the fourth in a series of 7 posts in the 7 days prior to Apple’s January 27 media event in which I explore [...] [...]

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  14. Hey Advait…
    Don’t forget to have a beer to help you eat that hat of yours….
    Just kidding…Thanks for the comments….

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