My Predictions

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:59 AM

Apple is announcing something Wednesday. That much is official. So, the question is, what will they announce? I'm going to follow David Weiss's score card items just for fun. Feel free to play along.

Basic Features

An Apple tablet computer will be the centerpiece of the event and I'm going to put myself in the camp thinking it will be called Canvas (runner up: iSlate, honorable mention: iPad). I'm going to peg the price at or below $800 for release in March of this year. I think the rumored $1,000 price point will only work if it can replace a full fledged secondary computer (e.g. notebook or small laptop). I think it will have a 10” screen, which will position it nicely against the Kindle DX (assuming it does aim at the e-Reader market — I think it will). If they opted for the previously rumored 7” screen, closer to the normal Kindle size, I can't imagine it being close enough to a laptop replacement to justify the surely steep price.

I think it will have WWAN (cellular) connectivity, but it will be optional, unless they offer some kind of way to bundle it with existing iPhone services to keep costs realistic. My wager would be that it will support both AT&T and Verizon, either as different options at purchase, or through inclusion of both CDMA/GSM in some sort of dual-mode chipset. The latter is reasonable enough since I think Apple is anxious to distance itself from AT&T. But, if it throws its fortunes in with Verizon alone for the tablet while leaving the iPhone at AT&T, that doesn't seem like it will work out very well for getting people to buy both devices. A dual-mode arrangement could allow Apple to deemphasize carriers, perhaps to an even greater extent than Google is trying to do with the Nexus One.

If Apple is going to put the tablet on Verizon, I'm going to guess that AT&T exclusivity on the iPhone will also be announced as being over. Probably, it will become clear, the AT&T exclusivity term began counting down in January 2007 when the iPhone was unveiled, and not when it was launched as was previously believed. This only makes sense: Apple won't want to launch a new wireless device that isn't a cell phone on a carrier that cannot (yet) offer an iPhone. If they did, people might go to Verizon for the tablet but — still wanting a smartphone — become part of the Android ecosystem. That'd be bad (in Apple's book, at least).

Apple will likely announce, but not have ready, a native SDK. Whether it will only use apps from the app store is anyone's guess, but I'll say no. Apple has used the justification that people need cell phones just to work as a rationale for tight control on the iPhone. While the App Store has worked well enough to likely justify pushing out the App Store for the tablet computer, I'm thinking the tablet is going to come closer to being a full fledged computer and looser controls go hand in hand with that. Nevertheless, I will be unsurprised if Apple thinks otherwise.

I'm going to say no to the “existing iPhone apps run on the tablet” rumor. I think there may be a way in the future for developers to support both platforms with one codebase, but running apps meant for a tiny screen on a much larger one seems uncharacteristically messy for Apple. The one code base, two platforms strategy though will be available for new or updated apps, however, because the tablet will use Cocoa Touch as its framework.

Content, Content, Content.

Reading is one of the most logical activities to use a 10” tablet for and I think it is almost certain that the rumors are true that Apple is targeting this against e-Readers such as the Kindle. Apple may think the dedicated e-Reader is a market not worth getting into, but a multi-function device that is a really good e-Reader? That sounds like something that would bring a smile to his Steveiness. I am guessing they will use some sort of hybrid screen that has an e-ink like mode, if not something that offers a true e-ink experience. I expect book, newspaper and magazine content delivered through the iTunes Store to compete with the Kindle and Nook stores.

I think that also means “indie” content will be available, more like the App Store than the iTunes Music Store. For that matter, more like the Kindle store than your local Borders. Text books may come, but I am dubious that Apple will make more inroads on this than Amazon, at least initially. Later? Sure, but if textbook publishers won't jump onto an already popular platform (Kindle), I think they'll need to at least have time to see the iSlate live before coming around… even for Apple.

Nevertheless, the device will not use the e-ink we know and love, because there is no way Apple is going to pass up support for other types of multimedia that need a fast refreshing, vibrant color screen. I'd be surprised if the tablet won't play all the sorts of media that the iPhone and iPod can. Let's up the ante a bit: I bet iTunes LP and iTunes Extras content will run on the tablet, too. Remember: the justification for buying this over an iPhone has to have something to do with the device being more like a computer than an iPod. If it is merely an iPod touch writ large, it will likely have a hard time selling for much more than a high end iPhone.

I think Apple is going to announce a subscription TV service sometime, but I don't think it will be Wednesday and I think it may have more to do with relaunching the Apple TV into a more competitive device than anything else. Will the tablet use that content? Sure, I'd expect it will. But, I don't think it will be the primary focus. A TV service will need to be fed into, well, TVs. If Apple's cable killer isn't primarily linked to the primary focus of the Wednesday event, I'm going to say it won't be announced unless it comes in the form of a “One More Thing…” at the end.


Yes, it will have a built-in camera and some sort of docking mechanism. But, let's offer a wildcard alternative: fully wireless sync with your current Mac ecosystem. Perhaps this would be extended to some iPhones and iPod touches too — say just the 3GS. I expect Apple to play up sync in general in the future. As iTunes goes, so goes Apple's overall strategy. The introduction of “Home Sync” quietly last year is something I believe will be the harbinger of bigger plans, with Apple returning to sync in a big way this year after pretty much letting its previous strides rust and be forgotten (think of the big push on sync services in Mac OS X Tiger back in 2005 and those features integration with the service then known as .Mac and now christened MobileMe). I'd guess this may come later in the year though — perhaps with Apple's answer to the Windows Home Server that could, in part, be a P2P synchronization storage device?

A tactile keyboard? No. Steve wouldn't allow such an “abomination.” I'd guess they will allow an external keyboard of some sort, however, realizing people aren't going to use it in lieu of a computer without the option of a tactile keyboard. Neither will the tablet support Flash, out of the box, anyway. John Gruber offers a good explanation of why. I think there is a chance Apple might be more open to plugins on this device than the iPhone, but I would be shocked if Flash is included with it ala Mac OS X.

As to Bing on the iPhone, I'd wager that is within the realm of possibility, but probably not tomorrow. I'd say the same with T-Mobile support. An iTunes web app also seems dubious, since it would almost certainly be based on Lala's code, which would be nearly impossible in the short timeframe since the Lala acquisition. Look for that later this year, however.

Touch screen iMacs or MacBooks? Nah. Unless there is a really good way to make reaching across one's desk to touch a screen helpful, I can't see Apple jumping on that train just now.

I think Apple will announce new iLife and iWork suites that will integrate with the tablet, however, and iPhone OS 4.0 will be previewed and shown to have taken in some of the new things that are being launched initially in the tablet, perhaps including a version of “iWork touch.”

Feel free to post your answers below. We will see how accurate I am on Wednesday afternoon.

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