Apple's new gadget is still under wraps, but some might say a tablet hasn't generated this much excitement since Moses.
Author Alyssa Giacobbe Illustration Bryan Christie
IT’S BEEN TWO and a half years since Apple released the iPhone. That might not seem like a long time, but for true Mac heads, it’s an eternity. Steve Jobs had scarcely returned to work after dealing with health issues early this year when the anticipation went viral: Welcome back, dude. Now where’s the next game-changer?
Since then, the buzz has built to a fever pitch. Supposedly, Apple is set to release its newest gizmo this spring: a $700 tablet-like handheld device that will allow users to surf the web, watch video and play games from just about anywhere. Of course, that’s just an educated guess.
Tech bloggers began geeking out over this rumored doohickey months ago. Apple’s tablet “could be a Kindle killer,” enthused PC World. Tech site Gizmodo enlisted a chocolatier to create an edible version of the fantasy device. And in September, Wired.com mused that the gadget might save the print industry, though the author allowed that the whole thing might just be “a media-fabricated illusion.”
Anyone who’s fiddled with an iPhone can understand the excitement. The new device, which unlike digital readers is expected to replicate web layouts, as well as host video, audio and interactive features, “could reshape the book and magazine industries in the same way that the iPod and iPhone have radically changed music and phones,” says Jeremy Horwitz, editor of online magazine iLounge. “Tablets have failed so many times before, it’ll be interesting to see if the form can be made desirable,” says Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, adding that “screens sans keyboards” have been common in science fiction since Star Trek. (And hey, Roddenberry was right about those sliding doors…)
Just how long we’ll have to wait for the new gadget is hard to predict. Reports have cited a range of dates, from last September to mid-2010. According to insiders, the tablet’s been in the works since as early as 2003, but Jobs—who famously killed the Newton MessagePad back in the ’90s—is said to have wondered whether a tablet would actually be useful for much more than “surfing the web in the bathroom.” Apparently, he’s decided it will.
The buzz around the Apple tablet hasn’t deterred competitors from testing out their own models. Images of a Microsoft double-screened “booklet” device called Courier surfaced in September; Silicon Valley vet Michael Arrington’s industry blog group TechCrunch is cooking up something called the CrunchPad, and Barnes & Noble released its own e-reader last month. But others are no doubt waiting to see what Jobs has cooked up. “Just like with the iPhone,” says CrunchGear editor John Biggs, “once Apple shows the way, the rest will follow.”
ALYSSA GIACOBBE uses her boyfriend’s iPhone to locate Quiznos shops while on road trips.
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