Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar and the Apple tablet computer

Screen shot 2009-12-28 at 5.53.54 PM.pngSaw Avatar in 3D at iMax yesterday. Recommended. I don't think it will stand the test of time, in that the story was so derivative that it will fade into memory pretty quickly but the lush visuals reappeared in my dreams which is always a good sign.

Like Minority Report, the film demonstrated some interesting ideas about future computer interfaces.

As CES and Apple's January 26th announcement draw near, I'm thinking about tablet computers a great deal at the moment.

If my hands are on the keyboard a mouse is a very convenient tools for pointing at things, it's close to the keyboard after all. Holding my arms up to a screen at head height is not going to work.

If a tablet was held in one hand then touching the screen to manipulate objects with the other seems to be the natural way to interact. I'm definitely looking forward to that.

The iPhone 3Gs 'oleophobic' screen coating shows that it's possible to have a capacitive touch screen that doesn't end up covered in grease smear - so that's an important technology.

The screens in Avatar were touch controlled, the only silly thing was that they were see through, presumably to enhance the movie scene. Aside from heads up displays, I can't imagine why you'd make screens transparent.

Here's my guesses/wishes on the Apple Tablet.

  • Will run Cocoa Touch - like the iPhone/iPod touch

  • The existing 90,000 iPhone apps will run out of the box in little gadget like windows

  • XCode will be updated with a new way to go full screen if required

  • The App store will be more like the iTunes store and include movie rental, and periodical subscriptions

  • Device will have WiFi, Bluetooth (to link to Magic mouse and keyboard), and 3G (mininum) data. After all, Apple knows how to do all this from the iPhone

  • Screen will be 1280x720 so that HD movies look awesome

  • Video hardware will decode H.264 at 30fps without using too much battery

  • Solid state disk - or at least an option

  • Will be jailbroken within 24 hours of shipping

  • Called iPad or iSlate - it's got to be i + one syllable so not iTablet



People criticise the iPhone for not multi-tasking but poor battery life complaints hurt much more. I wouldn't be surprised if the iPad only uses power for the frontmost app and sleeps everything else. The notification system is the right answer for this in my view.

The big unknown is the screen technology. If we are to replace newspapers and magazines then this device needs to be readable in daylight. When the iPhone screen debuted it was way ahead of any other phone screen, it wouldn't be a shock if they had something ready to go again.

5 comments:

Christopher said...

Other than the input method technology of the iPhone, I don't see why the tablet shouldn't be a MacBook/Pro, running the same OS and supporting the same apps. It isn't a phone - why would its battery requirements be any different to a laptop?

As for multi-threading/tasking, and this is an iPhone criticism, they should allow for asynchronous callbacks. Palm OS allowed this and battery life was great there. Essentially if an alarm event occurred then a registered callback in your app was called. Simple and effective. You can do all sorts of stuff with that.

:-)

Peter B Marks said...

I think battery life is really important. A device you can take out all day, without a charger and without worry, has a different character to a laptop.

Remember when we could take a Palm PDA on an international trip without the charger? That's what I want in a tablet.

So the async callbacks are like timers that go off and wake up your app? I guess the only issue is the potential for overuse.

The notification system seems good, a server, in the cloud, takes care of polling and just pushes to the device if there's new mail or instant messages.

Thanks Chris.

tonystevenson said...

Many people are clamouring for the iPad but apart from couch-surfing I am not sure what problem it's trying to solve. The concept is stuck between the pocketable iPhone (which wins for always being at hand) and the laptop which wins for versatility and power. Much as I am a sucker for the newest thing from Apple I am not sure I can see where an iPad fits in my digital life. For eBooks I am enjoying my Kindle which is highly optimised for books - high contrast 16 level grayscale screen + amazing battery life. I don't think the iPad will compete in this space - I'd be really surprised if Apple have some breakthrough display technology which has not already been paraded in public.
I agree day long battery life is essential in any portable device. Having watched the kids on their 2 screen Nintendo DSi I think Microsoft are on to something with their courier concept - two screens means more screen space on a portable device. If I could have a clamshell iPhone with double the screen size I'd be much happier with that than a less portable iPad.

Christopher said...

I think battery life is really important. A device you can take out all day, without a charger and without worry, has a different character to a laptop.

I agree with you that battery life is important but I do not think that running a full blown OS X and good battery life are mutually exclusive.

Remember when we could take a Palm PDA on an international trip without the charger? That's what I want in a tablet.

That's what I want in a laptop! Touching on Tony's comments, I see the tablet as being a laptop with a touch interface.

So the async callbacks are like timers that go off and wake up your app?

Yep.

I guess the only issue is the potential for overuse.

There is that potential, but I believe that can be managed. I did not experience this as a real problem with Palm OS devices.

The notification system seems good, a server, in the cloud, takes care of polling and just pushes to the device if there's new mail or instant messages.

I also like the existing notification system. However there is a need for a notification mechanism that does not depend upon the presence of a network. That's what I'm talking about. The Itineraries app that I developed for the Palm OS simply won't work on an iPhone. Remember that feature of my old app that used to wake it up upon arrival at a destination (in accordance with your itinerary), and then automatically change your time zone? This cannot be done on the iPhone presently - unless there's a network present.

Cheers Pete.

Touch Screen said...

nice article.