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10 Features That Would Make iPad a Hit

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Apple’s (s aapl) mythical tablet may or may not be here, but let’s indulge in last-minute conjecture on what Apple may have in store. So let’s try a thought experiment: a rundown of the 10 things that would guarantee that the tablet is an enduring success.

To begin with, I assume we all know what a tablet device is and what it does. Imagine an iPod touch with a 10-inch screen. I assume, too, that the tablet will run something similar to the touch-flavored OS at the heart of the iPhone — probably iPhone OS 4.0 (which has already been spotted in the wild).

Other lessons will be learned from the iPhone. Sleek industrial design, precious few hardware buttons and oleophobic coatings will feature in the spec sheet. So, too, will accelerometers, magnetometers and flux capacitors.

A cautionary note; despite assertions from unnamed Apple execs that we’re going to be “very surprised” by how we interact with the tablet, take it from an old cynic: It will be nothing like Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator concept device (seen below). It might be similar in form factor, but I guarantee the Tablet has more in common with Apple’s venerable Newton than it does the crazily ambitious platonic paradigm that was the Navigator.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

So with that out of the way, let’s get started with the 10 prescriptions for guaranteed tablet success for Apple, in reverse order:

10. OLED Display
I’m sure we won’t get this, and that’s a shame. Sure, we’ll still get HD resolution with an LCD, but the battery will suffer.

9. High-Definition Prowess
HD is crucial — 720p natively, 1080p via external screen. It has to manage at least three hours of continuous HD playback on a single battery charge.

8. eMagazine Reader
E-book readers are greyscale and dull. An eMagazine Reader offers colors, animations and adventure. (Plus, you can get automatic content delivery via iTunes subscriptions.) The concept below is by Bonnier R&D.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

7. Ubiquitous Connectivity
Sounds fancy, but it’s just a 3G radio for connecting to the Net. For an added awesome factor, let’s do it WhisperNet style, with no monthly 3G fees. (Never gonna happen, but what a wonderful dream!)

6. Cameras
That’s right, cameras is deliberately plural. One on the back and one embedded up-front for video iChat. Anything less than 5 megapixels, by the way, is criminal.

5. Touch Media
You know what we want here — multimedia creation, editing and consumption, all touch-friendly. The retrofitted iPhone’s iPod app just won’t cut it — what we need is a touch-based iTunes. And a touch-friendly iMovie would be very welcome.

4. Multitasking
We need real background processes, Apple. No excuses this time.

3. Awesome Battery
My dream in terms of battery life would be five days between full charges. But, realistically, this being a first-generation  device, the battery will probably be weak.

2. Apps
Actually, apps are doomed. HTML5 will see to that, eventually. Until then, Apple’s tablet needs to run all the apps already in the iTunes Store. Even the fart apps.

So, from an HD screen, Internet connectivity, incredible battery life and support for software to more factors, many things are needed to make the iTablet a success. What’s the one killer feature that will guarantee Apple’s tablet huge and sustainable success?

1. Price
It comes down to this. Most sane people will not buy a tablet if they can get a notebook (or an iPod touch!) that does all the same stuff at a lower price.

Of course, Apple may have already considered these things, and there are many other aspects of the iTablet that people are hoping for. While I’m sure we won’t get even half of these wish list (though perfectly reasonable) features, when Steve Jobs eventually makes the much-anticipated tablet announcement, he may convince many people that they need a tablet. If that happens, just check this list again for a brief reality check before reaching for your credit card.

Photo courtesy of Gizmodo. Photo rendering by Jesus Diaz.

Check out related research on the iPad from GigaOM Pro.

87 Responses to “10 Features That Would Make iPad a Hit”

  1. Matthew Motamedi

    6 reasons NOT TO BUY THE IPAD,
    6 reasons NOT TO BUY THE ICAN’T

    1st Does not have a camera built in.

    2nd Does not take CD or is not compatible with any devices that would enable it to.

    3rd NOT scratch resistant

    4th Only 64 gigs, SMALL AMOUNT OF MEMORY

    5th Not Good for school as a school tablet.

    6th DOES NOT have a stand to hold up for comfortable and easy typing and finger movement postures, making it completely uncomfortable.

  2. MsJoanne

    The only thing that would make this a must have is a fully functional web browser that allows me to do work email and view Flash. Without that, this is a big iPhone…and I have one of those (and like it quite alot – but not enough to buy a bigger one).

  3. What a waste of time and money. My iPhone already does this and more (camera, phone calls, SMS/MMS). Have fun on the failboat with your product that is only popular 5-7 days of the month…

  4. patternmusic

    This list is the iPad’s biggest risk. People’s imaginations and expectations are way out of line with what can be created in a portable, affordable device with good battery life.

    Everyone wants to be Tom Cruise in Minority Report. What they’re going to get is a jumbo-sized iPod touch.

  5. Oh, forget to mention one other thing. The Knowledge Navigator video is also prescient in another way, too. Its brilliant and informative presentation of global warming. It’s Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth years before the documentary came out. (Perhaps someone saw an early slide show of his?!)

  6. Ironic, isn’t it? Steve Jobs’s life work culminates in the Knowledge Navigator, the device espoused by his Apple nemesis, John Sculley! Sculley must be smiling, broadly.

    Apple could do well putting out something that functions as wonderfully as the Knowledge Navigator. The Youtube video on it, while slow-paced, is remarkably prescient, including touch screen, integrated to-do and phone calling, etc. The on screen avatar (who looks like Bill Nye the Science Guy), is the high-tech’s Jeeves! Great stuff!

    • Not exactly. Apple’s recent success hasn’t been with “academic tools” like KN but with “entertainment tools” as in Job’s “Media Center” concept.

      The problem is that computers simply can’t do enough on their own like in this video to pass themselves off successfully as “Knowledge Navigator” tries to portray. Additionally the market for “Knowledge Navigator” types of products is absolutely tiny – there is no long term growth potential or size sufficient to fund Apple’s level of research quality.

      The KN market is mostly intellectuals and academics as early and sole adopters. Steve already has seen the limits of targeting that market when he ran into a market wall with Next targeting the same basic market demographic. The Media Center concept (which includes the iMac, iPod, MacOS X features like Quartz graphics and Quartz Composer types of features, iPhone, iTunes Store, etc.) is the answer to that learned experience. It’s entertainment-centric which is the necessary bridge to later adoption in the bulk. You also aren’t seeing an “SGI” type of graphics and media strategy with Apple (for the same reasons) – the adoption chasm is too gaping.

      The fetish value of “knowledge tools” doesn’t translate to broader populations well and academic types falsely imagine the rest of the world is “just like them” and thus must necessary want something like a KN. The existing web (with all its emergent idiosyncrasies) is likely about is close as real life will ever get to a KN system.

  7. Given the 10 items you mention (which would be great!), the iGuide (or whatever it will be called) would cost $1,000+! And at that price would flop!

    Plus, Apple, like other manufacturers of tech goodies, knows to roll out the features over time to keep interest high.

    One thing I don’t believe people realize is how small a 10″ screen actually is. Take an 8 1/2 x 11 1/2″ piece of paper and fold it lengthwise in two (so it ends up 5.5 x 8.5). That’s the size of a 10″ tablet! Amazingly small isn’t it?!! I think many will be surprised and many disappointed when they see it.

    But small is beautiful; it will be eminently holdable; easily put into a backpack, side coat pocket, or briefcase; and incredibly addictive to use. In short, after people get over the surprise of how small 10″ device is, they’ll swarm to it!

    • My 1 year old Asus 1000HE netbook has a 10.1 inch screen, and a 85% of full-size keyboard, along with 7 hrs battery life with WiFi. I’ve been using it on the road, and like the form factor very much. I paid < $400.

      If this iPad/Slate/Thing has the same size screen, and some type of keyboard option, and half the weight… I’d consider it at $600.

  8. How about internet capable? As in, ‘can play streaming audio and video’ as my six-year old desktop can. Enough already of purpose built apps for one or two or a few streaming radio stations and slavish dedication to YouTube videos.

    Flash capable?

  9. I hope it works with Apple’s slim blue tooth keyboard in addition to multitouch. In fact. I wish the iPhone supported connectivity for the same keyboard. Sometimes you need to write longer emails and the virtual keyboard just won’t cut it, but I would throw the keyboard into my travel bag in heartbeat if it worked with the iphone and leave the laptop at home on shorter trips.

  10. A camera will not make or break this thing, 3G is not impossible (the nook has it), OLED isn’t too far fetched but remember Pixel Qi?, multi-tasking for what again?, and no-one knows what the price will be so judgements shouldn’t be made so soon. This device that people with so called “sources” have made many predictions about will likely target a specific market and I suggest people wait and see like they’ve been doing since 2003 (when many news reporters suggested an Apple Tablet was on the way)

  11. With regards to the surprising interaction, my conjecture is voice. Before everyone throws in their two cents about “clunky” voice operated software, let’s all agree that when Apple rolls out a frequently tread upon feature, it is head and shoulders above it’s predecessors. Smooth voice operation is the next step for computers if they’re are moving to tablet form. Why would we be surprised about a new way to type? While mouse clicking on hyperlinks will still remain a touch/mouse issue, basic app start up, searching, and dictation will be done by voice command.

    • While I agree that voice will play some small part in the Slate, just as it does in the current iteration of the iPhone, it could not be the surprise they are talking about.

      Firstly, it is a technology they already use, it could not be a surprise, even if much improved.

      Secondly, voice has been around too long, in too many forms, to ever be considered a surprise in any device. For instance, no-one was surprised when it was added to the iPHone or the iPod.

      Thirdly, no form of voice control could ever be stylish and discreet enough to be the main form of interaction – you couldn’t sit in a meeting dictating notes to yourself and Apple users would not be considered cool for much longer if cafes were suddenly invaded by hordes of babbling Slate users.

      No, the surprise won’t be voice, it will be something else that addresses the most obvious gap, the lack of a physical keyboard and the unsuitability of an onscreen keyboard to a device the size of a paperback. The obvious solution is a touch sensitive rear, allowing the Slate to be gripped fingers to the rear and thumbs to the front, giving you the spatial range of a full-size Qwerty keyboard and full typing speeds once you got used to the unusual (but ergonomically excellent) wrist position.

      If there is going to be a surprise, that is exactly what the surprise will be: the technology exists, it is sufficiently big to be a surprise and it makes perfect sense in the context of a tablet device.

      • MsJoanne

        Bluetooth virtual keyboard with a laser image of the keyboard where you can type on any surface, including your thighs. I’ve seen the technology and loved the concept. Perfect for this product.

        And Flash or some type of multimedia reader so I could see embedded media (like the above bit on Apple’s old technology; useless on my iPhone). I know, everyone hates Flash. Great. I don’t care what it is…as long as it works. And right now, this is lacking especially If the iPad is to be considered as a comprehensive device.

  12. I have been hoping for a dock-able solution that is actually a Mac when connected to a monitor. That will likely not be this! But, the future of computing is really about reducing application complexity to a focused task. Outside of writing and general document editing, much of what we do revolves around communication and data.

    I am working on some prototypes which center on education at the primary level. Having developed a CMS system for content with a focus on catalogs and magazines, my comments on content I believe are reflected in the reality of usage. Do you find news by going to the New York Times or through aggregators. Do you find information through Twitter or sites? How do you find new music?

    Content will be application like in the near future, and my project centers around a reduced version of Google Wave. The question is about how we intersperse content with communication. I rarely read an entire magazine or listen to an entire album, and the interesting thing about MotoBlur for me was the demonstration that flow could be an interesting concept while in motion.

    The new television is YouTube. The new magazine table of contents is Twitter. Shareable media objects will kill the concept of artificially timed published artifacts.

    Other than that, cool!

  13. Paul Johnson

    Thank you for including #5 Touch Media on your list of needed features (overlaps with #8 eMagazine Reader, I think). It is the only unique feature thus far for a tablet. In particular, you are right to emphasize that touch media must allow for creation as well as consumption if the tablet is to have any longer-term staying power.

  14. phil swenson

    html 5 isn’t going to kill apps. maybe some day, some web based tech will largely kill apps on iPhone/iPad, but it sure as hell isn’t html 5. You lose too much richness and too many features. The limited video features in HTML5 just don’t cut it. And iTunes makes it very easy to monetize your ideas, so I see little incentive from the development community.

    • The incentive of Web apps for developers is that it gives them control over who accesses it.

      The initial advantage of the App Store was that iTunes had trained users to expect to pay but, now, there are a growing number of hacked iPhones and it has been shown, in cases where a game sends information back to the developer, that the vast majority of users of certain games have pirated it.

      The Slate will allow more advanced, more complicated and probably more expensive apps to exist, this will increase the momentum and speed at which it will be hacked. The initial advantage of the App Store (that people were willing to pay) could be overtaken and developers will find themselves back in the normal software situation, in which paid sales come from a tiny minority of users.

      Running as a Web app, however, gives the developer the option of allowing access only to unique device IDs that are tied to an actual sale or subscription. Such apps cannot be copied and distributed because the logic of the app remains on the developer’s server.

      It will be a bumpy road, not least because such an eco-system will require “always-on” Internet access, but that is the direction in which commercial software will inevitably move.

  15. Not sure if this is possible yet with affordable consumer technology today, but I would love to see the camera implemented as a 5-10 megapixel hand-held lens on a retractable “snake” that connects to the iWhatever.

    This way, you can hold and point the camera with one hand, and see the video preview from the another hand holding the device.

    I just can’t picture people taking photos and videos at events by holding their tablets up in the air all the time.

      • This doesn’t occur for the same reasons that Detroit can’t seem to come up with leading edge technology in terms of features or power plants (alternative energy): they’ve painted themselves into a mindset and cost structure corner that is only capable of completely verticalized of product design using only their own products. This locks them into their current product design paradigm and out of innovation like you are talking about.

  16. “…apps are doomed. HTML5 will see to that, eventually.”

    eventually = 12 to 18 months.


    Why isn’t support for voice on this list? Who would cough up $1200 bucks for this thing and not be able to speak to anyone with it?

    Absolutely preposterous to expect people to walk around carrying a iPad and and iPhone.

    In fact that was the debate right here on gigaom back in 2005, we all agreed that no one would carry a mobile phone and an MP3 player.

    • I would hope that a bluetooth headset would be able to provide call functions. Should the product hit the market, it will actually replace my iPhone with or without cell service!

      This would be the perfect business phone with SalesForce on the screen while making calls!

    • Among many reasons I invested in an iPhone, was that I assumed I would listen to music on it. I suspect that the majority are like me: Music is very low on the hierarchy of iPhone utility. My 160GB iPod Classic stays in my vehicle until it’s time to add to it. Apple knows me (us). This is why music in the cloud is the future.

    • Why? I assume you mean a Cintiq or Tablet PC or Axiotron ModBook. These have resistive screens, levels of pressure sensitivity and use a stylus. Good for artists, people who outline and mindmap and people who like to write slowly. The touch screen currently in vogue are capacitive devices, having no stylus and lacking pressure sensitivity. These are good for consumers to manipulate media, send email and tweet and maybe annotate a few things. Two very different animals. Be happy with what you have.

  17. “02. Apps Actually, apps are doomed. HTML5 will see to that, eventually. Until then, Apple’s tablet needs to run all the apps already in the iTunes store. Even the fart apps.”

    A lot of applications could be implemented as an HTML service today if you really wanted, but they aren’t, and I wouldn’t hold my breathe waiting for everything to become “HTML5” based.