If you’ve been following Apple’s patents over the past few years, you would have noticed a trend in tablet-like devices and innovative ways to interact with electronic devices (like gestures on MacBooks and iPhone’s user interface.) I believe 2009 will be the year they finally release what they’ve been building up to. It’s not based (solely) on wishful thinking. Instead, it’s based on logical next steps and the success (and failures) of their competitors.
There are specific features that I believe this device will have, and they’ll be targeted not just at Microsoft and PC makers, but also at Amazon.com. In Apple-esque style, this device will solve some ongoing inconveniences that consumers have wanted solutions to, but didn’t think were possible.
What will this device be? It’s going to be a hybrid iPod/Mac that will run Mobile OS X (the same operating system that the iPod Touch and iPhone uses.) Bigger than an iPod, but smaller than a MacBook, it will be the device that ties all of Apple’s services together into a cohesive and holistic lifestyle computing solution.
The Perfect E-Reader
Mobile OS X, coupled with clever integration of key mobile chips, will help solve the problem of short battery life. Based on these new solutions, Apple will introduce a breakthrough in screen technology that will allow longer battery life on larger, brighter screens. They will also fix the problem of having devices overheat (become uncomfortable to hold.)
With longer battery life, a larger, brighter screen, and a device that doesn’t get too warm to hold, Apple will have created the perfect e-reader. It will make Amazon.com’s Kindle looks like an Etch-n-Sketch and it will once again take market-share away from Amazon.com, by making iTunes Music Store the most popular source for e-books. It will also help rush e-books into the mainstream, starting the beginning of the end of the paper novel.
MobileMe On Steroids
MobileMe allows Mac users to automatically sync and backup their settings on Apple’s clouded computing environment. Which means they can easily pull up their settings on another computer or restore settings in case they have a crash. This feature is very useful and I’ve used it personally in both of those instances.
The problem with MobileMe is that it’s still limited in what it can do. Although it syncs and backs up settings, it doesn’t do one thing that I’ve always wanted – support a truly portable home folder. The new device will act as that portable home folder. Similar to iDisk (or quite possibly by using iDisk) the home folder (your user account) will reside on this new device. It will contain everything that your home folder contains now, including Documents, Music, Movies, Pictures, etc…
This portable iDisk will work in the following ways. First, it will automatically sync all files on MobileMe (think Mozy.) Second, files will be accessible via mobile versions of iWork and whatever applications developers make for the device. Third, and most interesting of all, the device will act as your portable home folder. What that means is that your home folder will no longer reside on your computer (MacBook, iMac or Mac Pro). Instead, it will reside on this device and you will have a special dock for all of the computers you own.
This concept can be seen best with this docking patent. The device will either connect via an external dock or internal dock, as seen in this patent submission image by Apple.
The Perfect Consumer Device and An Industry’s Worst Nightmare
With the addition of more home devices (next version of AppleTV, a home server or other devices), this new device will become the hub and controller of a person’s digital lifestyle. It will go wherever they go. It will control all aspects of their data, including entertainment, communication and work. And it will act as the central foundation that brings all of Apple’s products together into one electronic ecosystem.
Unlike Macs, it will function like an iPhone, which means there will be less of a chance for a consumer to screw it up. For example, you won’t be able to install software on it like you can with a Mac and OS X. Instead, you will get your updates/upgrades via firmware (software) updates and all of your software will have to be purchased and installed via iTunes Music Store. You also won’t have access to system files or other data, because you’ll be operating in a controlled environment (say goodbye to Finder.)
This device will ultimately accomplish two things. First, it will provide consumers with features they’ve been wanting for quite some time. It will provide convenience and data cohesion in a highly intuitive device. Second, it will usher in a new level of proprietary control that will become the entertainment and computer industry’s worst nightmare. Consumers will make iTunes Music Store (or whatever they rename it to) their central place for purchasing entertainment (books, music, movies) and the entertainment industry will be at the mercy of Apple. At the same time, the PC industry will watch from the sideline as they desperately attempt to compete, but flounder in their efforts.