Some will say the Netbooks/UMPCs have some of this, which they do and people’s preference for them over laptops shows where the consumer is headed (and this is not just about price, but about accessibility, the evolution of a more mobile user. What holds them back from the possibilities of tablets is being cramped by an interface designed at heart for office-based tasks. Of course what held tablets even further back was the lack of suitable nedia and the high price.
Maybe, maybe, this will be the next step, and yes it will be in some ways a big iPhone, but also maybe a laptop replacement for many uses. What Apple accomplished with the i-Phone, that other smart-phones couldn’t, was making the ascendant technologies of multi-touch-screens, pocketable wi-fi/3G internet access and various applications accessible to millions. They did this through easy to use software and an incredible innovation , the App-store, making all kinds of uses open up for it that even they had never dreampt of (though I’ll admid many of these are pointless distractions, they still make life fun). After their experience with the still-evolving i-Tunes store, this was an obvious next step and something no-one else had succeeded in. Most PC companies are essentially run by Geeks, for geeks. For some reason, Apple keeps a finger on the pulse of ‘what’s cool’- and here lies their sucess.
As for the hardware, which as an iPhone user I’d say is secondary to it’s success to the software, personally I’m hoping for-
* Dual-core processor for smooth multi-tasking.
* At least 8-10 hours battery life.
* Enough resolution for HD video and detailed slideshows (say, 1280×800).
* Multitouch, expanded into new ways that open up the interface (probably a given, eh?)
* Bluetooth or usb for peripherals, like keyboards/joypads, so it can be used for writing at length.
* Digital monitor out (preferably HDMI, but knowing Apple it will be dvi/displayport).
* The new Pixel Qi ‘two mode LCD’- not sure I really want to read on a bright, conventional LCD designed for graphics.
* HD integrated webcam suitable for Skype.
* (Of course) 3G/Wifi, preferably ab/g/n.
If it’s serious about competing with the Kindle, the right kind of screen is essential. But if it’s aiming more at multimedia, Apple may well jettison the idea and go with a backlit LCD (which I think would be a mistake). Note on this- changing the colours to read ‘parchment style’ brown text on yellow does help a lot at keeping the contrast down with e-readers, but glossy screens will always be a strain.
So will it be the kind of success the i-Pod or i-Phone (eventually) became? Who’s to know, but given a few years I think it could well do this. It may take a while for people to realise it’s something they could never live without!