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From the mini MacBook to the tablet, a possible portrait of the device of the revolution

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The event that we have all been waiting for for months if not for years less than 24 hours away, the excitement rises and with it also the barrage of indiscretions that try to explain in advance how Apple's tablet will be. From the whirlwind of voices, hypotheses, true and false rumors, articles by authoritative and amateur newspapers, a picture comes out that changes its background and tone every day and that probably at the end of tomorrow's presentation will have many details different from those given for discounted. In this jungle it is not easy to extricate oneself, indeed very easy to go wrong. Let's try to summarize everything that has been said in recent times on the tablet, skimming the probable and the improbable, the logical from the illogical, to first of all help ourselves to clarify our ideas, while hoping to help our readers as well.

THE NAMEWhat will the tablet be called: iSlate or iPad? Both names seem to have been registered by Apple through shell companies, at least that which would emerge from some rather concrete clues found by sites specializing in rumors. At the moment the most likely brand seems to be iPad, close by assonance to the iPod and iPhone and as such capable of recalling the world of Apple, more than iSlate. On the other hand, iSlate lends itself to some inappropriate play of words (iSlate is pronounced as is late, late). Obviously Apple could surprise everyone with something new and never seen; it is not said that the names registered and discovered in these days are necessarily attributable to the tablet.

A TABLET TO DO WHATIn recent months many have stressed the lack of a netbook in the Apple offer and continued to do so even after Jobs on all useful occasions branded the netbooks as born old, not very functional and created only for the need to face the crisis with a low-cost product, instead of thinking about their real use. The Apple CEO has not been believed and accused of wanting to just spread a simple smoke screen around a sort of mini-MacBook that was secretly being prepared in Californian laboratories. But that from Cupertino could never come out a simple MacBook just smaller and lower cost was almost immediately evident to everyone who knows Apple. For more than a year, just to mention the writer, here and also on other newspapers we are theorising a strategy that will lead Apple to present a product that the logical continuation of what has been done up to now with the iPhone, iPod touch and App Store ecosystem . A device that will strengthen iTunes and the hardware platform by transforming them into a total hub for the distribution of content of all types: applications but also music, films, videos, TV, magazines, books. Everything can be digitized the target of the tablet which thanks to a more powerful processor, a larger screen, new partnership agreements will create a universe parallel to what we have lived up to now. Apple will derive great profits from this set-up, dominating what we might call Web 3.0: a system in which those who create digital content will be happy to entrust Apple with the task of selling what ends up yesterday had to give and in which customers will be available to pay to have with quality and punctuality what today they are forced to collect, more or less legally, wandering from here and there on the Internet. The "closed" tablet and placed on a cusp built on top of the iTunes Store, will not affect the laptop market which will remain independent from that of the tablet keeping Apple away from the vicious process of erosion of the margins that is worrying more than one of the major manufacturers of netbooks, all, some more or less, grappling with a cannibalization of the high-end laptop market. The new tablet, of course, will do much more than just play music, play videos and let us read books and magazines. Thanks to the more powerful processor, to a new generation graphics acceleration module, to the larger display than the iPhone, to run more advanced and even more expensive games and programs than those currently on sale on the App Store. In this way, Apple will solve one of the problems that, despite the proclamations of the last few months on the "magnificent and progressive fate of the online store", afflicts Apple and the developers: the too low costs of the applications and, at the same time, the excellent quality of many of them. It is unlikely that for a device such as a tablet, someone will come to mind, by target and by type of device, to develop a 79 cent program that has the sole purpose of reproducing bodily noises. Instead, many developers of primary importance, for example those in the world of games or those operating in the sea of ​​professional suites, could believe in the platform by launching titles from 9.99, 19.99 or even $ 29.99, today a true rarity in the world of iPhone and iPod touch. Far from excessive piracy risks, protected by the sales system all in charge of Apple, linked to a channel that brings their programs directly and easily to the virtual "desktop" of the device, with low marketing costs and none of packaging and distribution, the earnings for developers (and for Apple) could be huge

MOBILE CONNECTION OR NOTWill the tablet have cellular connection or not? The factors that push to opt for one or the other option balance each other almost perfectly. The cellular connection, on the one hand, would oblige current customers of iPhones or other telephones to another contract, in addition to the one for telephony, to have the full functionality of the device, and to make the supernumerary accounts with a reduced autonomy. A cellular connection also seems to be superfluous since all that can be done with it can be done by hooking the tablet in tethering with the cellphone. Those who believe in the connected tablet, on the other hand, highlight the advantages of a system with Internet access in every place to read news, send emails and surf the corporate and private networks and a similar opportunity offered only by the cellular network. To resolve the doubt Apple could do what it did with the iPhone and iPod touch: release one version of the device with a Sim slot and one without. The version compatible with the cellular network could be offered, depending on the country, with a contract or without it, leaving customers the option to use one already signed. To overcome market saturation and competition with the iPhone, however, a second option available would be to create a version for CDMA networks, the technology used by Verizon in the US. In this way Cupertino could entice a slice of customers not yet in possession of an iPhone and start the relationship, that with the American mobile operator, in view of the now inevitable farewell to the exclusive with At & T on the iPhone.

SCREEN DIMENSION10 inches or 7 inches? Screen size is one of the most controversial factors in tablet hardware. Currently most observers opt for a 10-inch display that the right compromise between readability and portability, but other sources equally logically point out that a screen at that resolution could significantly reduce the autonomy, a crucial factor if Apple wants to propose its also produced as an e-book support. For this reason, a good number of commentators think that the tablet can have a 7-inch display. Although such a screen may seem small, it would be four times the viewing area available on an iPhone. A 7-inch screen would also result in the possibility of using AMOLED technology instead of LCD (currently a 10-inch AMOLED display that is impractical for cost reasons); reduction of the 7-inch screen and AMOLED display together, experts say, would increase the autonomy of the device from 40 to 75% giving customers an additional 25% of autonomy if the tablet was used only as an e-book reader. An alternative would be the use of a display with hybrid technology, e-paper and LCD, such as those produced by Pixel-Qi which in some conditions controlled by software and ambient light use reflective technology extending battery life. Pixel-Qi has a close connection with Apple because of Carlin Vieri. Before arriving at Pixel-Qi, where in charge of the engineering sector, Vieri was part of the group that studied the iPhone display and this could have greatly facilitated the contacts. There are few doubts, in any case, that at the moment the easiest solution for Apple to travel is that of a 10-inch device with an LCD screen and some special technology for reducing battery consumption. And we know that Apple usually opts for the most linear solutions and does not risk too much on untried technologies, preferring to reinterpret those already in circulation.

WHEN CAN I BUY IT?One of the few data that seems established that the tablet will not be available immediately after the presentation. The "deferred" launch strategy has already been followed with the iPhone and will be re-proposed, most likely, even with the new device for multiple reasons: the need to refine the hardware and create a portfolio of content and applications (gathering around the platform developers) playing "in the open" for the latest commercial details, the obligation to obtain approval from the FCC (the Federal Communication Commission) which will have to certify the tablet's transmission circuits, the will to create waiting and do marketing. The launch in March, hypothesized by the Wall Street Journal, seems to be very reliable and not only because the newspaper is suspected of learning the details it launches as indiscretions from much more official sources than it lets believe. It remains to be seen, and here falls another of the big question marks of the whole tablet affair, if March will also be the launch date of the device for all markets or if Cupertino does not first test the waters in the USA. The reasons for this choice could be technical (availability of a sufficient number of products, compatibility with HSDPA cellular networks) or logistics, meaning in this case the need to launch the product when there will also be a number of agreements outside the US on the content that makes the tablet attractive and currently it does not seem that negotiations have even started in this direction outside the home of Apple. Actually, if Jobs's "new creation" (to echo the slogan used for the invitation) can play music, play videos, launch iPhone applications and maybe even new more sophisticated programs such as games or productivity applications personal, going on the Internet, sending emails, there wouldn't be many reasons to fear that it doesn't have a market outside of the USA. If anything, it could be a problem if the first version of the device, for reasons that we currently cannot define, was only compatible only with CDMA networks. This technology is in fact restricted to the USA and not compatible with the GSM / HSDPA standard adopted in the rest of the world. But Cupertino could, pending the indispensable version for Europe and the rest of the world, get around easily enough, immediately launching a version with only Wifi and tethering function via Bluetooth. In any case, the fact that for the occasion Apple has not organized an event in Europe and that very few selected journalists from the Old Continent have been invited to the US, some suspicions arouse it.

WHAT PRICE?Someone has long hoped for an Apple laptop or tablet for € 499, but that it is a completely unattainable dream. How could Apple sell a 7 or, worse, 10 inches and maybe 64 GB of flash memory at the same price as an 8 GB iPhone 3G or, if you prefer, about 100 euros more expensive than an iPod touch? The screen, the memory, the new technologies that the tablet will include lead us to think that the figure of 999 dollars reported by the Wall Street Journal seems probable to us. A cheaper version could perhaps be launched, perhaps without telephone connectivity or with less internal memory, but a device intended mainly for the multimedia market difficult to imagine with less than 64 GB of flash memory. Reported on the European market, the price could be between 799 and 899 euros, a cost n scale, however, with the 699 euros of the 32 GB iPhone 3GS. A system to reduce the cost Apple would have it: an agreement with some mobile operator to subsidize the device, but obviously to draw on this resource Cupertino should almost obligatorily (except for the non-presence of a USB port for HSDPA key) have a version compatible with telephone SIMs. It would then remain to be seen if, how and when this subsidy operation is also applicable outside the US or if Apple does not prefer to avoid any complications by going in splendid solitude on the market. It is known that agreements with operators have made it difficult to launch the iPhone in various markets to the point that recently the "free all" commercial offers have multiplied with cell phones unlocked and sold at full cost.

HOW WILL IT BE DONE INSIDE AND OUT?Beyond the screen, of which we have said, the curiosity of note on the rest of the hardware and software of the tablet. Many aspects seem obvious: no physical keyboard, multitouch screen, perhaps with some new technology, proprietary processor (developed by the former PASemi team) based on a dual-core ARM Cortex A9, PowerVR SGX545 graphics core or a variant also proprietary, 64 GB of Flash memory, design very similar to that of an iPhone or iPod touch, long lasting batteries, and iPhone Os operating system. Compatibility with the programs on sale on the Appe Store is very likely if not almost certain; it would be depending on the point of view or stupid or suicidal for Apple not to have foreseen some form of compatibility or very easy portability of the applications for iPhone and iPod touch on the tablet. One hundred thousand programs, some of which already "target" cannot be wasted and left aside as if they did not exist. Likely then that the new tablet also has a GPS chip (for navigation programs and localized services), a connection system to peripherals more sophisticated than that of iPhone and iPod touch (for a keyboard and mouse for example), long batteries durations derived from those for MacBook Pro, profile similar to that of an iPhone.

CONCLUSIONIt is fully understood that however much you listen to the Internet, how much experience you can have in interpreting the indiscretions and in distinguishing the sources and how much confidence you can place in past behavior and in the coherence of Apple's marketing strategies, some tail blow that will deflect the trajectory will definitely come. Equally sure also that some of the things we are giving, we and the whole world, for granted we will not see it and that others will appear by surprise. Finally, we are very disappointed that at the end of tomorrow's event, some of us will say with bewilderment: "no, this cannot work" and someone else, on the other hand, will be enthusiastic and ready to put his credit card to the test. There will be those who will love the tablet a priori and those who will hate it a priori, everyone will talk about it, the newspapers will be flooded with its images and the competitors will begin to think about how to chase and the secular miracle of Apple will once again be repeated and everyone will begin. suddenly, or maybe not, to think differently.