IT|Redux

What the next iPad will look like

Saturday, October 23rd 2010 | Ismael Ghalimi

I have been playing with my new MacBook Air 11” for a few hours now. I love every part of it, and there is not much I would like to change. Maybe shrinking the screen’s bezel and making it a 12” laptop without changing its outer dimensions. Or adding an SC Card port. And what about powering it with the A4 CPU so that it could use a diminutive 5V power adapter? All cosmetic changes of course. But there is a more radical change I would like to see in the future. In fact, it is so radical that it would create a brand new form factor altogether. To do so, one would have to really fuse an iPad with the new MacBook Air. Here is how it could be done.

Early tablet computers used a laptop design with a swivel hinge. The problem with such a design is that it is quite cumbersome. It’s heavy, has too many moving parts, and ends up being quite fragile. One could add multi-touch capabilities to a regular laptop’s screen, but as Steve Jobs pointed out, a vertical touch screen isn’t very effective. After a while, your hands simply get tired. Clearly, the multi-touch trackpad is a much better user interface.

But what if we put a screen on both sides of the laptop’s lid? When closed, it would look and behave like an iPad. When open, it would look and behave like a MacBook Air. In a nutshell, two LCD screens would sandwich a shared LED backlight. Structural integrity could be a challenge, but not anything Jonathan Ive couldn’t figure out…

Today’s MacBook Air 11” weighs 2.3 pounds. Let’s assume that adding a front screen would add half a pound (glass is heavy). At 2.8 pounds, it would still be one pound lighter than the 3.8 pounds MacBook Air + iPad combo.

A MacBook Air 11” with 64GB of storage retails for $999. An iPad with the same amount of storage retails for $699. If we assume that adding a second screen would increase the cost of the MacBook Air 11” by about $200, the combo device could retail for something like $1,199, which is $500 less than buying the MacBook Air and the iPad separately. Well, technically it’s $499 less, but you get my point…

From a software standpoint, the laptop mode would use the regular Mac OS X operating system, while the tablet mode would use iOS hosted by Mac OS X. In essence, you would get the best of both worlds. And all of that is being built today for Lion anyway.

Why would such a device offer a better user experience than using the iPad and MacBook Air separately? Because it would allow one to consume and produce content from the same device. The tablet is a great form factor for consuming content, but it’s a lousy one for producing it. Nothing can really match the convenience of a keyboard and multi-touch trackpad for writing an email, editing a spreadsheet, or drawing a diagram. Combining the two form factors into one also means:

  • Only one device to carry
  • Only one battery to keep charged
  • Only one power adapter to carry
  • Only one device to synchronize and manage
  • Only one mobile 3G account to pay for
  • Only one case to buy and carry
  • 2.8 pounds vs of 3.8 pounds
  • $1,199 vs $1,698

Thinking about it, I must believe that Steve and his team already thought about such a design. In fact, they might have patended it a long time ago. If they did, more power to them. But if they did not, here is a gift from me to them. And you.

Now let me tell you why all this matters to me, beside the fact that I love computers:

Apple is re-inventing the computing experience on the client-side, with better devices and better ways to consume applications and content with them (iTunes App Store). While I’m having fun dreaming about the new devices they might come up with in the future (like I did for the iPad with the Redux Model 1), what gets me really excited is to re-invent the computing experience on the server side. That’s what Intalio, the company I work for, is all about.

How do we make it easier to build applications for the Cloud? How do we make them available to the broadest audience possible, for all the computing devices that are available today, from desktops to laptops, tablets, and smartphones? How do we go beyond systems of records and help organizations build systems of actions, or systems of engagement? How do we leverage BPM and CRM technologies into a unified computing experience that blends documents, objects, and processes in a seamless way? And how do we keep it simple? How do we make it social? How do we make it look good? These are the questions that we’re working hard to answer at Intalio, and Intalio|Cloud is our best answer so far.

Intalio|Cloud combines most of the features and functions offered by Salesforce.com, Google App Engine, and Amazon Web Services, into an integrated software stack that can be deployed anywhere, on-premises or on-demand. It runs on any hypervisor (Hyper-V, KVM, VirtualBox, VMware, Xen). You can start small (free for up to five users), or grow very large (it’s powered by OpenStack). You can use only a few of its components (I love the new Project Management application), or you can use them all. You can develop your applications with our graphical tools, or you can use your programming language of choice (we support Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Ruby). And you can run it from anywhere, on your local server, in your data-center, on Amazon, or on Mars if you find a way to get your software there (some did). In other words, the very best of what the Cloud has to offer, with none of the limits that sometimes come with it. No Limits!

The single-tenant version is coming out in November, so stay tuned…

Entry filed under: Cloud Computing

11 Comments - Add a comment

1. Rup  |  October 24th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Hi Ismaël,

I share your enthusiasm for the iPad and the new MacBook Air, but I have other expectations for this new product you are hoping for.

It’s very quick and easy to point out the two main things lacking from an iPad to make it into a MacBook Air:
- a keyboard (pretty obvious !)
- horizontal multi-touch surface

So, instead of sticking an iPad onto the MacBook Air, why not just deliver a separate, full-sized Bluetooth keyboard with a large glass trackpad, i.e. something like a detachable MacBook Air keyboard?

The form factor of this keyboard would be important: too long (keyboard + lateral trackpad) would make it difficult to use in trains and planes, and Apple would need to produce left and right-hand keyboards with the trackpad on one side or the other.

The trackpad should NOT be independent, since you do not want to have to keep three pieces (keyboard, trackpad and iPad) balanced on your small tray in front of your seat on the plane!

The trackpad should be in its central position, just like any MacBook.

This device could possibly have two extra features: one would be some way of hooking the iPad to it to keep things stable, but this would be difficult to make practical and beautiful! Another would be an intelligent way to use the space provided under the keyboard, maybe as an enclosure for extra batteries? In that case, designing the connector to the iPad is part of the previous point about hooking the screen to the keyboard.

Bottom line: iPad + full-sized Bluetooth keyboard with large glass multi-touch trackpad is a better solution, from my point of view, than a double screen MacBook Air.

What do you think?

2. Ark  |  October 26th, 2010 at 2:19 am

It would be great with a Home button.

3. Joshua Billington  |  November 1st, 2010 at 10:31 am

A similar concept was submitted for patent in July 2010.

4. Harry  |  November 4th, 2010 at 10:30 am

The new iPad will almost certainly have the same built-in gyroscope that the iPhone 4 has in addition to the accelerometer.

5. Ismael Ghalimi  |  November 4th, 2010 at 10:41 am

Rup,

I think simple is beautiful.

A second screen keeps things very simple, with existing mechanics.

And it preserves the two form factors that people are used to: laptop and tablet.

It’s all about reducing the cognitive friction.

6. Edwin Khodabakchian  |  November 11th, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Interesting. What about allowing the screen to slide out instead of flipping. This way you could have a single screen.

7. Ismael Ghalimi  |  November 11th, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Apple has a patent on such a form factor, but it would be more bulky and cumbersome I believe. Simple is beautiful.

8. Edwin  |  November 12th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Interesting. I just noticed that they tried some of that in the past. Here is a post on the history of the Apple Tablet. Now that I see your screenshots, there is something interesting about having both screens. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

9. Ismael Ghalimi  |  November 14th, 2010 at 6:23 am

Indeed, one has to get a MacBook Air 11” in his hands and see these pictures to appreciate the value of the proposed design. It’s not directly intuitive. But when you see it, it feels right. Very natural. Very simple. Very streamlined.

10. Redes de proteção  |  November 24th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I think simple is beautiful.

11. Troy  |  January 26th, 2011 at 6:39 am

Sounds very interesting but 2 screens back to back will probably be a weak design resulting in alot of cracked screens.

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