In recent days our editorial team had launched its hypotheses and forecasts. Now MacProf has put some sketches and some considerations that better illustrate what could be a future-oriented mac that takes advantage of the latest technologies from Apple and third parties. This is obviously only a personal vision that wants to stimulate the debate on what may be the needs of Mac users.
Before going ahead in reading thinking that this article represents some kind of scoop … iPlate only a personal interpretation of a new interaction device that can be transformed into a laptop that has no connection with products from Apple if not the use of technologies available to market moment and being developed by third parties.
After seeing Steve Jobs' conference at MWNY 2000 where the CUBO was presented for the first time, I wondered what that space meant with an apple among the laptops right above the news of the expo: a simple graphic expedient or the placeholder for a new revolutionary product?
If we look at what the cube represents: an object that excels in design and presents new features and connection possibilities, we can think that Apple is preparing an object with these characteristics even in the laptop sector.
The trend towards minimalism, towards reducing the computer to its pure form could lead to the result of losing the third dimension to create a completely flat Mac.
A thin object that has new functions and has new ways of communicating and interacting.
Apple has repeatedly reaffirmed that it will not produce a handheld device (in competition with those of Palm, Handspring and Sony …) and that the goal is to work on only one operating system: MacOS.
This cuts all the hypotheses of a resurrection of the much-loved and unfortunate Newton who cannot be competitive on the current market for reasons of shape, weight and size. But Apple, even though Newton's production ceased, did not sell to third parties the underlying technologies and in particular those concerning the recognition of writing.
To give substance to these conjectures I quickly put sketches of the idea born after the keynote: it is a portable device that also a graphic tablet with also the recognition of the writing and obviously the possibility of insertion of the data through a touch screen that can be a virtual dockable keyboard …
As you can see from the first image iPlate in practice an LCD screen equipped with two side extensions with buttons and a wheel positioned on the "dorsal" part of the extensions that could serve as a controller for scrolling the pages, for sliders on the screen or for the game.
The surface of the LCD screen is touch-sensitive thanks to the superposition of a thick layer and can be used both with the fingers (to interact with buttons and on-screen elements – imagine a keyboard to be stored in the MacOS X dock) and with a pen.
The idea of the tablet with a built-in screen is certainly not new… Nemetscheck (the company that produces AllPlan and recently bought Vector Works) introduced its D-Board in 1999 in 1999 and Wacom (which the manufacturer of it) sells two devices similar ones called PL 300 and PL 400 (the cost of 4,500,000 L.) that exploit a similar technology.
But iPlate should have more than just input and visualization: handwriting recognition would make it possible not to use external keyboards and give the possibility to those who write with ideograms (let's think of the vast Chinese and Eastern market in general) to have a tool available ductile and effective. This would undoubtedly be easy with the Inkwell technology borrowed from Newton and with the power of MacOS X and multiprocessors.
"I mentioned Inkwell because this technology (according to various sources) tested by Apple these days should be available with MacOS X.
iPLATE could be a kind of giant PDA with Airport connection or BlueTooth technology but this would imply the presence of an operating system (with power consumption, hard disks, batteries, which would increase its weight and would be at the expense of practicality) to this point the possibilities would become two … "
The first is based on the ADC connector recently introduced by Apple: as you can see from this page it supports USB-Video connections and the power supply with a single cable. In agreement, it serves to reduce the amount of cables on the desk but it could also be useful for managing a device like iPlate that combines Audio-Video inputs and outputs with the possibility of entering and exiting with sounds, pen and keyboard input, voice commands, generations of sounds. This would allow iPlate to connect directly to the Cube or to the new G4s without any problems.
The second hypothesis refers to a device that can be configured as a handset composed of iPlate and a central unit (I called it "brick") which could have on board the electronic part of a PowerBook or an ibook connected with ADC to the screen / tablet.
Obviously the brick with its always horizontal layout could be useful to use standard peripherals such as DVD players and CDs that need to host media in a non-inclined position, but nothing would prohibit to manage more sophisticated readers and to host the electronic part totally interior of what appears in the drawings as a stand: the result is a laptop that is used inversely to the classic laptops.
I imagined that the closing panel could function as a stand that would allow you to position the tablet in any position and to unplug the unit with the electronics to be able to use the input device also detached .. on the knees, in the hand … without the proximity to batteries that heat up and have a limited weight.
The different configurations adapt to use on a desk, a laptop, as a voice-only or pen-only terminal, or with a more traditional mode of use with a keyboard connected to the USB bridge on the tablet.
At the end of the day you can close the device, take it home with the electronics like a laptop or choose one another to reuse it in your living room.
Is it just a dream? The technology to make it exist … MacOS X is coming soon ..
We will verify all this in a few months … (This page is also available in English)