What I hope Apple will announce tomorrow

This is what I have written on my calendar for tomorrow morning: "10 am: Apple announcement: OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG." Yes, I am excited to see what Steve Jobs unveils tomorrow. If the rumors are right, he'll show off a tablet computer, as well as new business models for periodicals, book publishing, movies and TV. But I'm hoping for a bit more than that. Here's what's on my wishlist.

Disclaimer: I don't have any inside information, I just read the Apple blogs and news, watch the company closely, and speculate. To set your skepticism properly, read this blog by Louis Gray pointing out failed Apple tablet predictions going as far back as 2001 as well as this post that purports to show a tablet prototype from 1983 -- that's right, 27 years ago. My point: Tablet rumors have been around a long, long time, and some of them have seemed quite certain.

That said: I do expect the rumors will be right this time, and Apple will introduce a tablet tomorrow. For more insight on specifics, see this comprehensive Tablet FAQ posted by my colleague Gregg Keizer yesterday. Short version: The Tablet is likely to be a 7-10" touchscreen device, sort of like an iPod touch with a much, much bigger display.

Some skeptics think the Tablet would be useless, or at best a niche product. Joe Wilcox wrote a piece on that theme for BetaNews: "The world doesn't need an Apple tablet, or any other." It's a great piece, but it's wrong.

The case for a tablet seems simple to me: I already spend hours at a time reading on my iPhone. I save articles on the Web and read them with Instapaper. I use the Kindle and Stanza iPhone apps to read e-books. I use the iPhone for Twitter, e-mail, reading articles on Wikipedia, browsing the Internet Movie Databse, and more. Indeed, I spend as much time on my iPhone as I do on my desktop computer.

The iPhone isn't a phone at all; it's a pocket-sized personal computer that makes phone calls. And one of the basic laws of personal computers is that a bigger display is better. So if the Tablet is simply an iPhone with a bigger screen, that's a win right there.

Moreover, many of Siracusa's objections can be turned on their head and seen as feature requests. For example, he makes the valid point that people who own iPhones won't want to be dinged for another data plan for their tablet. Well, fine then, tablet owners should be able to share data plans with their iPhones.

Shark Bait

The Apple Tablet: Should we care?

A couple of other noteworthy tablet predictions and analyses: Apple is in talks with newspaper, magazine and book publishers for Tablet content. Apple already has plenty of video content in the iTunes Store, and if that's not enough, there's a whole Internet of video to choose from. I wouldn't be surprised to see the tablet shipping with a dock that lets you hang it from the wall. Of course it won't replace the 70" monster TV in your living room, but you could hang it from the kitchen cabinets to watch video while making dinner, and Tony Soprano could use it to watch the Nazi History Channel while working on his treadmill.

The tablet's Achilles heel would likely be text entry, as my colleague Dan Moren points out. A full-size keyboard sits on a flat surface to use, an iPhone or BlackBerry keyboard works because you can hold those devices in the palm of your hand. But neither solution would work well for a Tablet. A sliding onscreen keyboard, where you use your finger or a stylus to glide from one letter to the next, seems like a good solution.

What will the tablet be called? The "iSlate"? Daring Fireball has a nice wrap-up of the speculation on potential Apple tablet names. He dismisses rumors about "iPad," ponders that Apple might bring back the name "iBook" for this new device, and guesses that they might just call it the "Tablet." But it won't be called the "iTablet," Gruber says, adding that it might be time for Apple to retire the "i" prefix. iAgree

My favorite suggested name for the tablet: "touchy fun-pad".

Expectations are high. Steve Jobs reportedly said it "will be the most important thing I've ever done," according to a rumor on TechCrunch. Daring Fireball speculates that Apple is "swinging big — redefining the experience of personal computing."

I think TechCrunch and Daring Fireball are being too conservative. I believe the tablet will enable us to shed our earthly bodies and ascend into beings of pure light.

But enough about the Tablet. Let's talk a bit about a couple of other things I'm hoping to see from tomorrow's announcement:

iPhone 4.0 software: BoyGeniusReport says Version 4.0 of the iPhone software will bow Wednesday. It will support multitasking (yay!), and only run on the iPhone 3G and 3GS. That's not a problem for me, but Mrs. Tool Talk has a first-generation iPhone, which means I need to get ready for lots of dirty looks when I talk about the great new features of iPhone 4.0.

I don't think we'll see new iPhone hardware. The first three generations of iPhone debuted in the early summer. I think Apple will stick to that schedule this year.

New MacBook Pros. Apple's high-end notebooks are overdue for replacement, according to mactactic, a terrific Web page that tells you when you should buy Apple products based on when Apple is likely to come out with an upgrade. I need to buy a notebook, it's going to be a MacBook Pro, and I don't want to buy at the end of the product lifecycle. I'd like for Apple to announce new MacBook Pros tomorrow, although, given that we haven't seen any rumors about them on the blogs, I don't think it's likely.

What are you expecting Apple to announce tomorrow? Leave a message and let us know.

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