What Would You Do With An iTablet?

by James R. Stoup Sep 20, 2006

Today, I have a little thought experiment for everyone. All I need you to do is tell me what possible use you could have for an “iTablet”. That is to say, tell me what you would do with an Apple-branded tablet-like device (not a Tablet PC, an actual tablet). Now, here is my one condition, don’t let current limitations of technology stop you. Allow me to explain in more detail.

I have thought about this for a while and I cannot come up with a reason for ever wanting or needing an iTablet. Because every time I think of something to do with it, I realize that there are better alternatives out there already. So, I put this question to our readers, what would you do with an iTablet?

Remember, techonolgy isn’t a factor. You can imagine it to be as big or as small as you want. Give it a 2 year battery for all I care. Give it a touch screen and wireless capability too. Tack on a camera if you must, but once you are done, answer me this simple question: “What do you do with it?”

Because I can’t think of anything useful. Remember, life isn’t like Star Trek where everyone carries around a little computerized tablet. We aren’t on a space ship. So why do we need one? Lets go through a common list of “desired” features and maybe someone can tell me where I am going wrong.

Watching Movies
Would someone explain to me how you are going to watch a movie on something that you are supposed to hold in one hand? Forgetting battery life entirely, the main limitiation is going to be the screen size. You can only make it so big before you are carrying around a laptop. Also, how are you going to hold this razor thin tablet for a 2 hour movie? Prop it up against something? Tape it to your hand? Use magnets to afix it to a metal wall? What? It seems like quite a hassle just to watch a movie.

Surfing the Net
Since you are going to be holding this in one hand I hope you are really good at typing with four fingers. What you really need is a keyboard, but if you add that then you have a laptop. Adding a stylus isn’t going to help you surf the web either I’m afraid.

The Super-Duper PDA
I just can’t see someone buying an iTablet and trying to use it as a PDA. Not when they can just use their cell phone or, dare I say, their laptop. Either of which would be much easier to use. As an extra function, maybe. As the primary function, no way.

Video Phone/Gaming Device/Swiss Army Knife
Now we are really getting into the realm of fantasy. Can’t you just see someone holding a tablet in front of their face and talking to someone else via a video link? No, I can’t either. Because you wouldn’t be able to see where your going it would be very awkward to use. Same thing happens when you try and turn it into a game machine. How do you play it? How do you hold it?

Am I missing something folks? Is there really a hidden purpose that I am just not seeing? What would you do with one of these things? Remember, just because a product does 7 things poorly doesn’t mean they add up into a great device.





  • If it had decent pressure sensitivity it’d be a nice replacement for powerbook + wacom tablet

    CSMcDonald had this to say on Sep 20, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I think a touch screen iMac would be a much better idea. All day I think “this would be so much easier if my iMac was touch screen”. From illustrator, photoshop, garageband…infact just all apps.

    mynameisjesse had this to say on Sep 20, 2006 Posts: 12
  • You can get touchscreens for iMacs.  I’ve seen even the new 24” Intel iMac already has upgrades advertised for touchscreen.

    Xapplimatic had this to say on Sep 20, 2006 Posts: 15
  • If I told you, you would get rich…I mean, RICH beyond your wildest imagination! smile

    Seriously, though, the practicality gap between a notebook computer (including the ill-fated Tablet PC and the Origami PC) and the cell phone is very open to interpretation.

    What I mean is, just look around. There you see PDAs that act like a phone, phones that pretend to be PDAs, then you have the MP3 players that are slowly evolving to contain features from both.

    A device need to bring all these practical uses into one cohesive device. But let’s not make that device look like that Katamari game for the PS2 - separate functionalities clumped together to look like the the shuttle’s cockpit.

    What would you do with it, you ask? Well, you can make calls with it with your Bluetooth headset (required since it is a tablet) using VoIP over WiFi and/or WiMax. It will be a media playback a-la iPod and can control the iTV wirelessly. It can become an office picture frame when not in use or charging (but can instantly become a phone or notebook at will). It will have the iPod accessory jack so you will be able to expand its base functions - FM tuner, camera, mic, LED lamp, etc…

    How will this be possible? OLED will make the flexible display panel possible. Combine that with a touch-sensitive layer like that recent Apple patent and you have a virtual keyboard, touch pad, or a gesture pad for the virtual click-wheel.

    Do I expect such a device from Apple? No, but I actually expect them to come close to that.

    Remember, the goal of such device is a cohesive whole not a mish-mash of functions into an incoherent clump. So far, none of the current crop - Treos, Blackberrys, Sidekick - can claim such honor. That honor is still open for that one company that can pull it off.

    Will it be Apple? Maybe. Then again, I’m just dreaming…

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 20, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Themost useful features would be: reading documents (which are terrible on a landscape-oriented screen, much less a widescreen one and taking notes, specifically in class.  For the student, there is tremendous potential, having all your readings as PDFs and taking notes by hand would be perfect.

    miles davis had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 4
  • There’s also the possibility of using it as a dashboard for a traditional mac, be it laptop or desktop.  Imagine using something like Garageband and having the tablet on the table in front of you with the traditional monitor displaying the timeline and the tablet being a mixing board, or an impromptu piano keyboard.  This to me is where I would figure computing might go to, where you have this secondary screen which could be used for whatever interface best suits the app in use. 

    Of course, what would be really awesome would be if Apple were to release a tablet laptop, they could encorporate this setup in several ways.  The simplest would be by having a DVI port to plug in a traditional monitor, but what would be quite interesting would be if you could simply connect it to an imac, creating an instant cluster to boost the CPU capacity for any of Apple’s pro apps which might have the need for that sort of thing. 

    Pie in the sky I know, but it’s been in my head for the past however many months so ya.  Personally I think that this is the sort of thing that would mae the dashboard useful, with these sorts of virtual devices replacing certain USB hardware controllers (obviously a piano keyboard is better than a touchscreen, but mixers and jog wheels can be easily replaced I would figure).  That’s my two cents anyways.

    Chicken2nite had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 79
  • I’d use my iTablet as a long promised, never delivered, final true replacement for paper. With an iTablet (or iPaper) at my desk I could jot notes and doodles as they come to me, then beam the ones I want to my computer. I go to a meeting and everyone there has their own iPaper with the agenda and notes there in their hands.

    What’s that? You didn’t get the agenda? Here, I’ll beam a copy to you through the rudimentary but easy to use network that’s been established automatically in this room. I flick my pen/finger and the document spins onto the icon that represents you.

    I take more notes. If the meeting is at the office, it beams straight to my server space, and if I’m out, it connects when I get back.

    I meet someone new, and I write a little squiggle, followed by their details, and it gets marked as an address to be filed correctly when I return to base.

    I get back to the office, and someone needed me while I was away, but instead of a pile of sticky notes on my keyboard, they’ve scribbled a note on their own iPaper and beamed it to my incoming notes holding area on my desktop. I don’t feel like reading it now, but I pull them all on to my iPaper to check them over at home.

    It comes time for the bus ride home. I beam some reading onto the iPaper and stow it in my case till I get to the bus stop. I don’t play music on it, as my iPod does that, but I’m making my way through some heavy reading, until I decide it’s enough and flip to a classic novel instead.

    I don’t use it as an all purpose organiser, although I could, as my computer and phone do that, but it sure beats all the paper I used to go through…

    Thus ends my dream, and I wake up to find my desk covered in mounds of notes and invoices, and hear the distant sound of a photocopier printing a hundred copies of another note to be read and screwed up and thrown in the bin by everyone in the office.

    joshnunn had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 1
  • What miles davis said.

    What we want is a full color high-res ePaper touchsensitive display.

    It would be the only book to carry. It would keep in total sync with your personal main computer and all your other devices at all times. So you could loose / brake it and just pick up a new one without any loss of data. Of course it would also be your total remote at home, for everything.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 371
  • my views on the whole keyboard thing for tablets/other portable computing devices now/in the future is- ‘no keyboard’ surely processing power in most device is at or approaching the level where, if you had a motion sensing ‘glove’ on, or micro-‘smart dust’ sensors on your jeans .or something similar you could type ‘in the air’(/on your leg) and it would use pattern recognition/error-correction/spell-checking/predictive text or a combination thereof to wirelessly ‘know’ what you’re typing (a stepping stone on the way to the computer having some weird brain/neuronal sensors, and knowing what you’re ‘thinking of typing..’)  ...they’ll both happen i predict!!    along with all main computation being done in a cellphone sized brick/pebble in your pocket or backpack, and 2way mirror sunglasses/HUDs for the visuals..  ..go on, tell me i’m wrong!!

    dapperdrake had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I would use it as a display device when a visual output is necessary when I remotely talk to my computer. Although the simple bluetooth-like headset is always on and monitored by my computer for all verbal input, a tablet as an input device would be necessary fro those times when speaking is inappropriate or inadequate.

    I see no reason not to have a small, highly portable, computing device (or dumb I/O device linked to a very powerful remote computer) that does not require a mouse or keyboard. For me, I do not type very well on this highly illogical QWERTY device, and handwritten notes and doodles are much quicker and more informative for me.

    I am also very aware of many less capable individuals, both mentally and physically, that could have their daily lives greatly enhanced by such a device. A very brilliant friend of mine (originally my calculus tutor) has a very difficult time talking. His words are very muffled and often unintelligible, and his dexterity is too poor for sign language. Such a portable device could translate his unique sounds into text for others to read and/or hear. Another friend of mine is blind, it would be great to have a tablet with a built-in iSight so he can just point it to any text such as a street or store sign and it describes the sign and speaks the text: “A banner above you reads ‘All coats 50 percent off.’” With GPS and a proximity detector, that same iTablet would guide him anywhere.

    Besides, such a device would also offer me the ability to remotely view published articles by narrow-minded, ego-centric, authors that feel that if they cannot find a need for a device in their own life that it has no place in anyone else’s life. Just because you do not need a cane does not mean that we should not make them, and most assuredly, the world needs not pass it by you for your royal stamp of approval. GROW UP!!! ...or tell me how I can get a job such as yours writing about lame opinions without substance. I’d love to stop doing real work for a living!

    Aryugaetu had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 10
  • I want tablets that connect wirelessly to my main computer throughout the house. One for every room. Think multiple users logged in at the same time. More or less a portable screen that extends your main computer. Watch TV and surf the net at the same time. Mount one in the kitchen to display recipes as you cook. Mount one to a wall (with an assortment of frames) to wirelessly run photo slideshows direct from iPhoto.

    It fits Apple’s model of keeping things simple the same way iTV does. The home computer is becomming the home server and everything will run off it. It doesn’t have to be a take-it-anywhere laptop, just an extension of your main computer for the home.

    So give me my iTablets or iScreens or whatever you want to call them. But wait intil you can produce such a thing for under $500 a pop.

    GerberG8TR had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 4
  • If I were a student:  I would use it in class to take notes and browse a PDF version of my books.  Imagine being able to scribe notes from vector calculus on to the tablet only to have completed expressions converted to a digital font easy to read and study from?  Integrated scientific calculator and graphing tools.  Ad hock network connection to share notes and ideas in group study. 

    If I were a doctor it would be my digital patient file.  I would have software which would automatically load the patents file from the central database when I walked into the exam room I would have access to all images/x-rays/scans the patient had ever received a full searchable patient history.  The tablet would wirelessly integrate with my equipment allowing me to record various measurements I had to take. 

    The tablet would have a dock and or a kick stand for watching movies or viewing documents when a desk was available.  It would use an on screen keyboard, on screen character recognition or the “laser keyboard” technology for user input. 

    There are thousands of places I could see where this can be used where either paper or laptops are used today in an awkward manor.

    rachmaninoff had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Tablets are one of those things that are hard to explain until you have used one…

    I’m a Mac user first, but have to admit my Tablet PC has completely changed the way I use computers.  Let me give you a few things I *currently* do with it…

    1.  Meeting notes, with searchable ink… it is a great way to do it, because paper can be lost, but OneNote is searchable forever.  The Tablet form factor is great, because it seems to be less formal for people I meet with.  If I open a laptop, things become formal.  If I pull out a tablet, they treat it like a piece of paper.
    2.  Client Presentations… during brainstorming, nothing is better than being able to share a drawing, sketch, etc. on a projector
    3.  Mobile note taking… while standing beside a server, walking around a building, moving from desk to desk, standing in line at the bank, etc, it can be difficult to take notes on a laptop.  The tablet form factor is such that you can grab it and take notes on the go.
    4.  Photoshop!  I have a wacom hooked up to my Mac, but there is something so much better about actually drawing on the screen.
    5. Web Surfing… *yes* I surf the web in tablet mode…you don’t “peck” with the pen, you handwrite your urls.  Then, websites become like a book you are reading.

    What would I like it to do?
    1.  Integrate ink completely in the interface.  Whether it is Mail, iCal, Keynote, iTunes, or Pages, I want to write.  It is natural.
    2.  On the Tablet PC, you can convert handwriting to text.  I don’t want it to convert, I want to be able to flip back and forth.
    3.  Collect information intuitively… websites, documents, recordings, notes, events, whatever… I want to be able to “grab” it and store it in a virtual notebook.  This would be similar to OneNote, but much more integrated into the OS.
    4.  Notate *everything*.  If I’m on a website, I want to be able to write notes *on* it, about it.  Then, next time I’m on the site, those notes just show up.  Those notes must be retrievable, though… probably from the notebook discussed in #3.

    Jon Bauerle had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I would use it as a really cool PSP

    Nemin had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 35
    I’m a professinal illustrator and portrait artist. I’ve been waiting for 35 years for the drawing board to evolve from crushed wood to silicon. With a pressure sensitive pen, this would be a dream come true.

    Scott Waters had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 1
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