Whatever Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, unveils at the expected new product launch today, it is certain to be the first glimpse that anyone outside the Apple campus in Cupertino has had of it.
Mr Jobs, 54, is the sole arbiter of taste for Apple. The company does no product testing and his teams regularly bring dozens, if not hundreds, of mock-ups for his personal approval. Behind the mirrored windows of the Apple design labs, there are drawers full of abandoned prototypes.
Not even a liver transplant stopped Mr Jobs from pursuing his vision to revolutionise personal computers. While many speculated that he might never return, he kept a firm grip from his sick bed on the company he founded in 1976. Top of the agenda was the tablet. Mr Jobs held product meetings with senior executives at his home in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, within days of returning from the operation last year. He will reveal the long-awaited product at the Yerba Buena Centre theatre in San Francisco.
If he has got it right the device will represent a new paradigm in the way people read digital books, watch television, use the internet and play video games.
The computer, described as an “iPhone on steroids” with a 10in multitouch screen, is the culmination of years of development. Mr Jobs investigated touchscreens five years ago, but the project turned into the iPhone when he decided the technology then was better suited to smaller screens. The success of this smartphone, however, led him to believe the time was now right. The multitouch technology, battery life and processing speed were good and cheap enough for the device to be viable.
Some have dubbed it the “Jesus tablet”. Others say that it is the one gadget to rule them all. The descriptions give a taste of the frenzied expectation that surrounds the launch of Apple’s latest device, a touch screen “tablet” computer, which will be unveiled today.
Little has been confirmed about the device, as Apple is notorious for keeping details of its products secret before launch. However, the company has done nothing to temper speculation, which is itself increasing pressure on the company to deliver something ground-breaking.
It will come with a “virtual keyboard”, trusting that people will become used to tapping a glass screen rather than press down on actual keys. It is likely to be called either the iSlate or iPad. But the company has registered a number of different names for the device.
In design, it is believed to look like an oversized iPhone, and will come with 3G internet connection — meaning that users will be able to connect to the web wherever they are. The device could be available to buy as early as March.
Just as important as the gadget may be the effect it has on other sectors, such as the media industry and publishing. Apple has already successfully pioneered applications — or apps — with its iPhone and iPod. These programs serve myriad purposes, from guiding users to restaurants to turning phones into musical instruments.
They also allow people to do things such as read newspapers and play games, but make the experience faster and simpler than on a website. More than a billion apps have been downloaded, and crucially Apple users seem willing to spend money buying them. This has persuaded many companies to help to develop new apps for the tablet.
Apple has held talks with media companies over the possibility of providing content for the tablet. These are said to include The New York Times, Condé Nast, the magazine publisher, as well as HarperCollins, the book publisher, and its owner News Corporation — parent company of The Times.
The tablet could be revolutionary in the way that it displays the written word. Books and newspapers could be presented differently through a touch interface and colour screens, and could update users with up-to-the-second information from many different sources. Yesterday, reports suggested that Amazon will open its store of electronic books — designed to be read on its own Kindle reading device — so they can also be read on the tablet.
I personally don’t feel that Apple has ever been an innovator, but they certainly give a niche to their products. There state of art hardware and software compatibility, ease of use and the brand factor all add-up to give us a tech-savvy product of new digital age.
Whether or not this iSlate (expected) proves to be a “game changer“, only time will tell. But I’m looking positively for the launch.
Hits and Misses
Newton A personal digital assistant with a stylus and built-in handwriting recognition (that rarely worked), surfaced in the early 1990s. It was discontinued in 1998. Sometimes referred to as iPhone’s grandfather.
The Pippin This gaming machine was launched at the height of console fever in 1995. It cost twice as much as its rivals and was unstable, slow and underpowered
Macintosh TV Fewer than 10,000 units were made of Apple’s black integrated entertainment unit with a tiny screen and a bulky box
iMac The iMac, released in 1998, came in a range of rainbow colours and was the first in a long range
iTunes The launch in 2001 marked the start of Apple’s position as a world player in consumer electronics
iTunes Store Arriving on the scene in 2003, this cleverly integrated iTunes’ digital media software with access to millions of tracks at the click of a mouse
iPod Since its release in 2002, the iPod has sold more than 200 million units and revolutionised the MP3 player market. Later models enabled users to watch videos and films
iPhone Picked up where the iPod left off, combining digital music player, internet browser and the lucrative downloadable applications that offer access to everything from maps to medical advice.
iTablet? Apple’s tablet computer has been dubbed the company’s most anticipated product so far. Rumoured names include the iTablet, iPad and iSlate