I Dream of Tablet, Part Four: HD Video And Multimedia

by Josh Rubenoff Dec 10, 2009

As I noted in Part Two of this series, iTunes LPs and iTunes Extras seemed to be tailor-made specifically for a hypothetical device like this: at 1280x720, they're too big for an iPhone or iPod to view. What device could they be for? Well, they'd be perfect for viewing on a device with a larger screen, intended to view the 720p television shows and movies sold on the iTunes Store, at full resolution. Perhaps a device with a next-gen mobile system-on-a-chip like Tegra or Snapdragon, optimized for graphics performance and HD video playback. But why in the world would you buy a device with an 8- or 10-inch screen, one you can't even fit in your pocket, when you can watch your iTunes purchases on your laptop, or on a giant HDTV instead?

A large portion of this debate comes down to whether we, as consumers, care about video fidelity and resolution across the board. Considering how many people hold the opinion that videos encoded in SD on YouTube are perfectly watchable and even halfway-decent, I'm not sure that's the case for the average computer user, and I don't think you could sell a device like an Apple tablet solely on the grounds that your videos will look better on its screen. Certainly there are times when I can imagine that the resolution of a larger HD mobile device would come in handy: a digital artist displaying her portfolio to a colleague with ease, a businessman more easily able to view documents and spreadsheets while on the go; but the use cases seem too limited for me to really envision this device having broad appeal based on the screen alone.

So it seems to me that Apple's got to have something up its sleeve to pull out at the introductory keynote, something that makes this device really stand out, both as an Apple product and a success story, amidst the wasteland of failed tablet computing attempts (Windows XP Tablet Edition and the CrunchPad immediately come to mind). Whether it's the introduction of interactive features for video that the tablet can only take advantage of, or some new game-changing HCI method that'll be the killer feature multi-touch was for the iPhone, or just the introduction of a bunch of new media formats like the one for digital print publications, I think there needs to be an extra gimmick for this device. Of course, Apple could prove me wrong, like it's done for so many in the past who've tried to predict its next move. But I don't think you can sell something like this based on extra resolution and horsepower alone.

Whatever the multimedia capabilities of the Apple tablet are (if, again, the thing even exists) I'm sure Apple will have thought long and hard about its potential use cases in the weeks and months leading up to its release, tailoring the physical attributes of the device to its practical applications.

[NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles that constitute baseless speculation on a hypothetical Apple tablet computer. Everything below assumes that Apple is, in fact, working on a touchscreen device with a larger form factor than the iPhone, to be used as a platform for digital books/magazines/newspapers, as well as, perhaps, a better way to view HD video.]


  • Interesting point - that they need some killer feature.
    My brain is stuck in “TV” thoughts.. which isn’t exactly “outside the box” thinking.
    But here it is anyway:

    1) iTunes TV Subscription service on the tablet
    2) Dock for Tablet to TV - offering full HD AppleTV services, + apps
    (syncing entirely wireless - the tablet ‘lives’ with the TV)

    Separate to the tablet…
    3) New AppleTV also offering apps.
    4) AppleTV app for current iPhone - SD only! -plus dock to TV

    While I don’t think it’s a killer feature, I’d like to see them provide a digital picture frame option as a standby mode, with HD video & photo content. That might send mixed messages though…

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Dec 10, 2009 Posts: 228
  • The hook could be a clamshell format with a screen on each half, at the 16:9 ratio where you could use it like a laptop for e-mail, watching movies or web surfing, with a keyboard on the other screen. 

    When you want to read a book, turn the thing 90º and read just like a book.  I do this with my MBP when I am reading PDF manuals, only I have just the one page.  Just imagine how quickly the media would use this format.

    I see the size at 9” x 6"and 3/4” thick closed.  I have a paperback that size and it looks like the perfect dimension.  Do it in aluminum like the MBPs.  It would be perfect to drop into a backpack or purse, even a camera bag.  There would be enough screen realestate to do preliminary photo editing in the field.  There would have to be, at least, 2 firewire ports for a BU-drive and a mouse.
    Memory would be 256 Gig SSD.

    Obviously it also plays iTunes.

    Price point:  $800 US

    Now if we could only include a phone which is not tethered to a cellular network….....

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Dec 14, 2009 Posts: 29
  • Re: previous comment-
    Firewire should read USB.

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Dec 14, 2009 Posts: 29
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