1950's Styalator electronic tablet, 1960's RAND Tablet and Dynabook. Various generations of Apple Newton devices, Microsoft Slate's and Windows for Pen based computers. Even the Kindle that has sold about 1.5 million units total could be viewed as a failure when compared to numbers like 40-60 million iPhone's and iPod Touch devices.
Why have so many companies tried and so many failed? Perhaps more importantly what does Apple think it can do to succeed? Here's what I predict:
- Best overall device for consuming content. Books, Magazines, Music, DVD's.
Devices of the past focused on creating content (usually with a pen) only the Kindle was good at reading content and only book form at that.
- Best mobile web-browser. Sure you can pinch and zoom on your phone but if you really want to surf you need something larger. This middle ground is great for a tablet sized device. You can finally read a website on a bus or train without trying to balance a laptop or looking too conspicuous.
- Interface based on the iPhone. Clearly Apple has nailed the iPhone UI. They will take this base and extend it to a larger device. Not as big as a laptop but somewhere in between. The touch based interface will be enhanced with a two hand multi-touch predictive keyboard. Everyone will hate it at first. Three months later everyone will call it brilliant.
- It'll look like a flat iPhone. 90% screen, a little edge. Thin as hell. It'll be priced so that people perceive it as being expensive and premium compared to everything else. $799, maybe more. Expect people to say... Why would I get that when I can get a Kindle for $259. That sort of thing just makes people desire it even more.
- App developers will flock to it.
- Magazines will be the killer content.
- Social games will be the killer app.