There was a period in time, between working with Microsoft Research at Caltech and working for Microsoft now, when I worked on all sorts of non-microsoft things. We were building a new open source media experience for unix and linux (and it’s community) and I was having a ton of fun working on rearchitecting the RealPlayer for Mac. In those days, my mobile machine of choice was a PowerBook which ran both OSX and Linux.
There has always been the rumor of a Mac Tablet. One of my mac devs of that time kept telling me that a mac tablet has been in the works since when he was at Apple and all it needs was the right moment. Given one’s enthusiasm for pretty looking things – many of the macheads have been hoping and hoping for a mac tablet. Macworlds came and went, PC tablets came, UMPCs came.. yet, no mac tablet…
… till today. Jobs announced a Mac Tablet at the conference today. They call it the iPhone. If you took Microsoft’s vision of Haiku (UMPC successor), stick some glassy prettiness on it, put in a phone stack and release it a few months (or a year) in advance – you get iPhone.
My kidding aside, this device which is being positioned as a phone (or rather a convergence between an ipod, a phone and a communicator) at first look is a small mac tablet with a phone app on it. The trademark glassy UI replete with familiar icons. While there are no details on whether it supports inkwell it very well could – as it is touted to be running OSX. Mixed reports on the battery life – although most say it is likely to be pretty measly for a non smartphone. (As an aside, are we seeing an OSX embedded in the works? iTV seems to be another product that might be running it) So then, what differentiates the iPhone from a mac tablet with the aforementioned properties? Perhaps the famed lifestyle experience design expertise that Apple brings to many of their successful products? Perhaps the focus on building a single device, with a single operator, targeting very specific personas?
There has for ages been this debate on convergence. There’s been also the big debate on formfactors. What are the key features for a device that goes with you? How many of the activities you perform on the go are convergable and compatible? How big can this device be? Voice (Cell+Voip), IM and Email, Media (Music+Video), Productivity and Information Management (Calendars, Notes, Tasks), Location based services (Maps, GPS, Security) are the key scenarios for me in my lifestyle.
The iPhone is just one of the devices trying to answer these questions. I expect the debates to continue as next generation WindowsMobile based devices roll out into the market. The success or failure of any and all of these devices will depend on whether the designers GET it that in the end it is about making the user feel good about using the device (not dumb, not cranky, not miserable…).
To be Updated/Continued…