Looking back on ‘The Tablet’

If you’re thinking The Tablet is just a big iPhone, or just Apple’s take on the e-reader, or just a media player, or just anything, I say you’re thinking too small — the equivalent of thinking that the iPhone was going to be just a click wheel iPod that made phone calls. I think The Tablet is nothing short of Apple’s reconception of personal computing.

The Tablet, Daring Fireball, 31 December 2009

This article from last year is truly excellent, and is recommended reading. The iPad was announced on 27 January 2010; I remember watching event that evening as if it happened last week. Let’s look at some of the questions John did not have answers to back then.

I have a thousand questions about The Tablet’s design. What size is it? There’s a big difference between, say, 7- and 10-inch displays.

What amazing prescience John Gruber has. The difference between seven and ten inches remains a hot topic, and I don't think it's going to die out for quite a while. The Blackberry Playbook is coming and has a seven inch screen, while HP/Palm is going for ten. Samsung has tried both.

How do you type on it? With all your fingers, like a laptop keyboard? Or like an iPhone, with only your thumbs?

Both, depending on how you hold it. You may even use a hardware keyboard, which I think came as a surprise to everybody.

If you’re supposed to watch video on it, how do you prop it up? Holding it in your hands? Flat on a table seems like the wrong angle entirely; but a fold-out “arm” to prop it up, à la a picture frame, seems clumsy and inelegant.

Holding it in you hands. In fact, specifically with Safari, this is presented as a feature: “It just feels right, to hold the internet in your hands”. (Scott Forstall in the iPad introductory video — go to “Watch the iPad video”.)

If it’s just a touchscreen tablet, how do you protect the screen while carrying it around?

Case or bag. That’s easy. Also, by not carrying it around. Our iPad rarely leaves the house.

But there’s one question at the top of the list, the answer to which is the key to answering every other question. That question is this: If you already have an iPhone and a MacBook; why would you want this?

This is still a tricky question for a lot of people. The answer is something like: ‘the user experience is better’ or ‘it can't go wrong’ or ‘it's easier to use’.