So, where's Apple's tablet computer?

So, where's Apple's tablet computer?

Summary: If a TV isn't Apple's next big thing, then what about an OS X-powered tablet computer? Given the changes we've seen in OS X lately, it makes sense.

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There's no doubt that Apple's iOS-powered iPad has been a massive hit, but with Microsoft and its hardware partners getting ready to unleash a multitude of Windows 8 and Windows RT powered hardware, can an OS X powered Apple tablet computer be far behind?

There's been endless speculation as to what Apple's next big thing will be. While many analysts, along with a huge number of tech pundits, believe that this is going to be an Apple branded television, I have to say that I'm skeptical. The television market is on its knees and unless Steve Jobs really did come up with the secret sauce to allow Apple to sell televisions by the millions, it doesn't seem like a good market for the consumer electronics giant to enter into.

So, if not a TV, what else?

How about an OS X powered tablet computer?

On the face of it, this might seem like a crazy idea. After all, the iPad is a highly successful tablet and given the tight grip that the Cupertino giant has on the tablet market, the company can ride the iPad for the foreseeable future. So far, the iPad's only real competition has been a flood of mediocre Android tablets. With Microsoft -- and countless hardware OEMs -- now stepping up to the plate, the iPad is going to face new, and possibly quite vigorous, pressure. Also, for the first time, Windows 8 will offer consumers the opportunity to experience a full-blown, touch-optimized operating system designed with tablets in mind.

Like it or not, Windows 8 is going to be a game changer. It's going to give people -- consumers and enterprise users alike -- a taste for tablets that feature a full-blown operating system. Is Apple going to let Microsoft and its OEMs define the full-OS tablet market?

This leaves Apple with a dilemma. Stick with the iPad and its cut-down iOS operating system, or offer a tablet with a more fully-featured operating system.

Joining the dots, I think that there's evidence to suggest that Apple is already preparing the way to put OS X on a tablet.

Starting with OS X 10.7 'Lion' Apple has been busy adding features from iOS into its desktop operating system. There have been small tweaks such as 'reverse scrolling,' which took the scrolling paradigm that mouse and touchpad users have become accustomed to and turned it on its head; and moving the content in the direction of finger movement, something that will be familiar to millions of iPad and iPhone users.

Then there's the Mac App Store, a mechanism of distributing apps to Mac users, bypassing the middleman and creating a digital distribution mechanism similar to the App Store present in iOS. Not only does this give Apple 30 percent of all software bought via the store, it gives users one-click access to the software they want. It also paves the way for iOS-like apps on OS X that would give users access to apps specifically designed for use with fingers rather that a keyboard, mouse, and touchpad.

Then there's iCloud. Local storage is now being augmented with cloud storage, and while none of the players -- Microsoft, Apple, or Google -- have nailed it down perfectly yet, the distinction between local storage and cloud storage is blurrier than ever.

There are countless other features from iOS that have made it into OS X, such as the Launchpad application launcher that allows users to fire off a program by single-clicking on an icon, a feature that looks a lot like the iOS SpringBoard or Home Screen interface. Launchpad makes a lot more sense on a touch device than it does on a system driven by a keyboard, mouse, and touchpad.

All this development work sounds like a perfect match for a tablet.

Microsoft has faced heavy criticism for making too many touch-related changes in Windows 8 too quickly. Apple, on the other hand, seems to have been making smaller, incremental changes in OS X. While some have rebelled against this iOSification of OS X, most users seem to be happy with the changes.

Apple, it seems, has been laying the groundwork for touch-enabled OS X systems for a few years, and now that Microsoft is preparing to make an assault on the tablet market, the time may be right for Apple to unveil its next-generation Mac -- the Mac Pad.

This certainly excites me more than all this talk of an Apple TV does.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPad, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Tablets

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64 comments
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  • Naaaahhh...

    I just don't see Apple releasing an OSX tablet. Too much confusion. However, it would not be at all surprised to see new Macbooks with touch-screens. I've used an ASUS transformer TF300 in laptop mode long enough to realize that it's actually pretty cool to reach up and touch the screen to scroll and click buttons and the like. Whether or not the future of computing is tablets, I'm convinced that the future of computing does involve touch screens.
    dsf3g
    • Exactly.

      The ASUS Transformer tablets with their dockable keyboards have created a new data input paradigm that has the best of both worlds, touch screen and keyboard.

      In the future, all laptops will have a dockable configuration. It will meld the tablet market with the laptop market. It's a great new market that is flexible and user friendly.
      laequis
      • Nope

        No, the touch screen on laptop isn't fun or user friendly at all.

        The keyboard exist because it is user friendly to type longer text with it.
        Bonus sides are:
        + Bigger battery (+9-16h)
        + Connectivity (2 USB, SD-card slot, Headphones+Mic)
        + Protects screen when in backpack

        But the tablet needs to be accessible without any keyboard and laptop needs to be accessible without touching the display.

        The GUI needs to be designed radically for both different work situations. Example Android in Transformer is awesome, but keyboard is only great when typing a lot emails, documents or otherwise writing a lot (and I mean dozens of pages per day).

        The touchpad is still better to scroll views and point things as hands are comfortable on keyboard and it is easy just to click wanted (even better are those acceleration shortcuts in browser addons).
        Fri13
    • Touch screens are stupid. Here. Try this experiment.

      Hold your arm straight out in front of your body and count slowly to sixty. That was fun, wasn't it? Not.
      baggins_z
      • Edit: Touch screens for desktop and laptops.

        ZDNet needs to bring back the edit button.
        baggins_z
      • That example is so funny

        Touch screens on portable devices like the iPads are stupid. Here. Try this experiment:
        Type out an 800 page novel using just the on screen keyboard while standing and holding the iPad in 1 hand. That was fun, wasn't it? Not.

        Hint: holding your arm straight out in front of your body and holding it there for 60 seconds isn't the typical use case for a touch screen on a desktop or a laptop. In fact, there is NO different between using a touch screen on a laptop and using the iPad with a keyboard dock. From PERSONAL experience (since I own an iPad with a keyboard dock) the iPad is worse because you have NO CHOICE but to use the touch screen. At least a touch screen laptop gives you the option of using a mouse for all those times when on an iPad, you'd be forced to hold your arm straight out in front of your body for a minute.
        toddbottom3
        • Edit - agreed on needing edit back

          " At least a touch screen laptop gives you the option of using a mouse "

          or trackpad, like the Surface.
          toddbottom3
          • Go Toddy

            Wave those Microsoft Pom=poms, you Mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragger. The "Surface sucks, because it's over priced. Unless the Thugs at Microsoft intend to "Dump" it on the market, which is wrong. you God reminds me of a Cartoon Character. Ballmer is "Pinky" from "Pinky, and the brain", being Bill Gates was the brain, and Ballmer is nothing but filler.
            Troll Hunter J
        • toddbottom3 doesn't understand the concept.

          Apple's keyboard dock is okay for typing class that I elementary school, but most people just use Apple's wireless keyboard like I do. Then you can place the tablet in any position you like depending on the type of holders standing you're using. Place the keyboard your best typing level and angle it to suit your needs. I have used my iPad for almost 3 years now , picked it up in June of 2010.

          Because I do a lot of traveling and I need to keep my blogs updated, and I have a lot of business correspondence, I find the iPad much more convenient than lightning around my MacBook Pro. I use Apples Pages it's fully customize for the tablet experience. Never have I had any major concerns typing out long reports, the iPad is fantastic.

          Lately I have upgraded to an iPad 3 I have now switched over to do a lot of my work using the built-in dictation system. I find this much easier as long as you're in a quiet location otherwise I have to switch over to the keypad.

          Apple's dictation system is fantastic I'm actually using it right now on my iPad using Mountain Lion. Every new Mac has built-in dictation which of just a few months ago would've cost you $200 to incorporate. There's no need to train it matter fact I've actually had a conversation sharing a microphone with two people that's picked up both sides of the conversation about any problems.

          Even though the iPad can perform well doing correspondents on the road I really do believe that the iPad main function is to review and gather information. As a resource and search tool it's absolutely wonderful. My next purchase of course will be an iPad mini


          SO I QUOTE TODDBOTTOM3 " TOUCH SCREENS ON PORTABLE DEVICES LIKE THE IPADS ARE STUPID.

          I hope you reconsider your comments. Are you sure if you understand the concept of using a touchscreen. I know some people have a hard time adjusting to new technology.

          Voice dictation and touch-screens on Apple devices will be the future. Soon the keyboard will take its place alongside obsolete devices. Roller balls in Mouse. CRT Computer screens. 5.25" floppy disk's. I think you get the idea by now.

          Hope you find this information helpful and informative toddbottom3, keep working at it I hope you get the hang of it soon.
          MacNewton
          • Mac Dictation Still Requires Editing, Spell-checking

            While I do look forward to Mac dictation as an option, anyone who wants to be understood in this flood of words, needs to edit their thoughts and opinions for spelling, clarity, punch, and grammar. I was taught by many different sorts of writing teachers and coaches to move whole paragraphs if necessary into better order, if my thoughts moved faster than typing skills. That's why I've owned Macs since 1986 and will until I can't type any longer. Your post was so to the point that I longed to edit it to make it better. If you had fixed it with a mouse and a keyboard, you could have done it yourself.
            CJ Gillis
      • Uuummmm

        Uuum, baggins_z.... did you read my comment? I own an ASUS Transformer TF300. I use it docked all the time. While docked I use touch controls for scrolling and clicking stuff. Even though the Transformer has a touchpad, I still prefer using my finger much of the time... feels more natural. And no, it's not as tiring as I thought it would be before I, too, owned a Transformer. In fact, it's not tiring at all. For one thing, I rarely have my arm suspended out in front of me while using the Tranfomer. Much more likely, my elbow is resting on the edge of the table. So really, it's no more tiring than holding a book.

        Now a desktop screen would be a slightly different story. I'm really eager to try out Win 8 on a desktop with a pair of touchscreen monitors, just to see how much touch input I use. I suspect that it will be less than with the Transformer, but not entirely absent. But still, on a laptop? Yeah, a touch screen will make for a better experience, and I assure you, many people will take advantage of it.

        Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about to reach out with my finger an hit "submit" on this comment.
        dsf3g
        • Nope

          "So really, it's no more tiring than holding a book."

          Actually it is.

          Use that touch screen on a tablet next 5 years and it starts showing.

          Still you can hold a book much longer because you use stronger muscles and you without noticing change your holding but only in natural way.

          Have you ever tried hold a book front of your head like reading it for longer than 1 minute when standing? Your hands gets tired.
          Have you ever tried hold a book when laying back and keeping book directly top of your head? Your hands gets tired.

          People who reads a lot books, they use support. They use table, pillow, knees, laps and many other supports to keep the book. They do not hold or wave their hands around a book like laptops with touch screen demands. Thats why laptop has been so succesful for last 30 years because you can rest your hands on keyboard. Thats why laptops with touch screens didn't take off 20 years ago because you were forced to return back to keyboard+mouse as users couldn't stand using touch screen on those devices.

          It doesn't matter how many user usability and physiological tests has been done and proofs that laptops and desktop computers with touchscreen doesn't just work, Microsoft fans just believe Microsoft has invented something. History just repeats itself, again.

          If Apple ever will release a laptop with touchscreen, it will fail. Their first mistake was then to hire the person who allowed it to happend, and second who designed it. And history would repeat itself again there, where first stupidest fans would bought it and promote it, just to notice quickly that it is waste of money and terrible idea.

          The question just is, how long it takes from Microsoft fans to notice the lies what they tell to itself?
          Fri13
      • Touch Screens

        I think touch screens for the desktop are a bad idea. It forces you to sit closer than you would normally sit cause you normally have some space between the monitor and you, desktop space for keyboard or whatever. You would have fingerprints on the monitor, major annoyance. If you have a 27" monitor or larger it makes it harder to see everything in one fell swoop.

        Jony Ive said it: "It's easy to make something different (see Windows 8), it's very hard to truly make something better."
        Maha888
      • you need to get some new material

        Do you say that every time touch screen is brought up? Seriously, I've used one since November and I never hold my arm out and count to 60. Let's try this once again. A Touch screen on a laptop is not nor was it ever meant to be the only interface with the system. It's not like a tablet. However as a supplementary interface, it is awesome. it is so natural to reach up when I'm scrolling. It is great rather than moving my touch pad around, to just touch the icon I'm looking at. By the way, don't bring up the "I have to clean the screen" argument either. Touch screen or no, I wouldn't use my computer while munching greasy fries. I clean my screen about once a week and that takes care of it for me. I would bet anything that Apple is furiously working on touch screens for the Macs. They are feeling very old fashioned right now.
        larsonjs
      • but, but

        that puts my hand almost two feet past my laptop. Touch screens need to be small and close, like an iPad or a surface
        mswift@...
  • I don't see this happening

    Apple seems happy enough creating the ecosystem of products that work well together.

    They don't seem like they're gunning for one OS.

    Didn't they even say it was a bad idea?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • Nope

      Apple use only OS in all their device. XNU operating system (uses Mach microkernel) is 100% open source and free software (OSI and FSF have accepted its license) and available for everyone.

      IOS, OS X and all their iPod etc devices use XNU operating system. The difference is that they include different system programs and libraries and software platforms to different devices/systems.

      Now Microsoft has moved to same style in Windows Phone 8, as they have same NT operating system for all devices, from servers to smartphones and desktops.
      Fri13
    • Ha Ha, how many times have they said something's a bad idea!

      7" tablets were a bad idea, before Apple did it.
      larsonjs
  • "Like it or not, Windows 8 is going to be a game changer."

    I do believe you were saying Windows 8 was going to be a massive fail earlier in the year. What changed your mind?

    If Apple were to release an OS X tablet, that would be egg on Tim Cook's face.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Let me be the first to say it

    The Mac Pad would not be a copy of the Windows Surface because of the NEWTON.
    toddbottom3