Wednesday, January 30, 2008

iPod Slate Wish List: What I Would Like in an Apple UMPC

The much rumored iPod Slate turned out to be just that, a rumor. Some say that it was never to be, while others say that it just wasn't ready to be released to the public quite yet. Either way, we don't have it, which means I can still put up a wish list for the features I would like to see in such a device.

Why am I talking about this now? Well, here is hopes that it will be ready and inexpensive enough for the Christmas season (starting in October), and that somehow my ideas/wishes/suggestions will have time to be adopted. Of course, that assumes that someone in Cupertino actually reads my blog.

First and foremost, it needs to be very mobile. This means the form factor for the iPod would be perfect, if just enlarged slightly. This will allow for maximum portability, while still being large enough to be able to see/read/use. Also, in addition to the size, the multi-touch display would be invaluable, allowing for operation without a mouse. An iSight camera facing the user would be a must, allowing for iChat AV usage.

Next, ports. Your standard iPod doesn't have anything other than the proprietary iPod docking port, and that needs to change with the iPod Slate. Add a USB port and a micro-DVI port, just like what's present on the MacBook Air. Why? Because occasionally you may want to hook up a USB device of some sort (usually extra storage). The micro-DVI port would be necessary for presentations (i.e., Keynote). That would make this device a phenomenal seller in the business market (and education).

Now input devices. Allow the tethering of bluetooth devices, like the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. It's thin enough to be useful for something like this, as both would be easily stored in a portfolio. A bluetooth headset would be a given, I would think, and perhaps even a bluetooth microphone alone. Why? An excellent option for people out making a quick and dirty Podcast interview. You can leave your iPod Slate in your pocket, and still record the conversation like a professional.

What about the guts? The processor doesn't have to be really powerful. Let's face it, this isn't going to be a gaming machine. The hard drive could also be small, like the 16 GB solid state drives that are already part of the iPod Touch. That keeps the price down, and gives the user plenty of storage for office work and basic recording. Want more storage? Perhaps have an upgrade to 32 GB. Anything more would be nice, but would price the device beyond overall acceptance.

Also, along with the expected Bluetooth and WiFi, have 3G/4G built into it. Not necessary, but would be really nice for those businessmen traveling, and need something compact. This way you also don't have to worry about including a slot for a 3G card. Of course, people could use the USB dongles available... but wouldn't it be nicer to have it built in? And while we are talking about it, why not have a small stand built into it, so it can stand up on it's side. Perfect for using the bluetooth headset (though this could be a third party add-on that I would pay a small amount of money for ^_^).

And finally, drives. As proven with the MacBook Air, you don't need a drive if you already have a system that can share their drive over the network. If that's the case, why worry about anything more than just the hard drive on the iPod Slate? The innovation that came with the Air can be easily adopted on the iPod Slate.

Make the iPod Slate versatile: allow standard Apple software to be installed. Granted, gaming will not be a huge priority (except for your distraction games like Chess or Cards), but iLife would be nice. I don't think people will be working particularly with iDVD, but iPhoto, iMovie (to a small extent), and Garageband would be almost an absolute must. iTunes is pretty much a given. And, if some games are optimized for the platform... Well that is just the game-maker's win, isn't it? (Hint: WoW and Second Life would be great!).

I would also like to see Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on the device. Why? Because I'm looking for a production machine that will let me write documents easily (with a bluetooth keyboard), show presentations, and let me keep track of information in a spreadsheet all in my pocket. The PocketPC has had this capability in a very limited form for a long time, and it would be a mistake to have the opportunity to improve on this opportunity go to waste.

Next, have a full version of iCal, with all the calendars, subscriptions, etc. This is what is missing from the iPhone and iPods. People that need to live in a calendar to keep their life going in the right direction need it. On top of iCal, have a full version of iChat, Mail, and Address Book installed. It's only logical, and would make it a killer device.

Here is the real bottom line: don't price it as high as the MacBook Air. This isn't meant to be a high-end sub-notebook. But it is the most advanced iPod out there. Make it between $600.00 and $900.00, and you will have it sold easily. Students will choose it over any other laptop for their school work, and then choose another machine for gaming. It's a quick and easy way to get people into the Mac platform while still letting them hold on to a PC. When that PC then dies, they will buy a Mac next, because they have had time to compare.

So, that is my wish list. Do I expect everything to be adopted? Not at all. But I do hope that the next iPod Slate will have, at minimum, everything the iPod Touch has, but with Bluetooth for a keyboard, iWork for office work, and a micro-DVI port for presentations. That alone would be a huge leap forward for the iPod.

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