If Apple or one of its partners sells a separate physical wireless keyboard -- forget about it. All motivation to own and use a netbook will be gone in an instant.
If the Apple tablet is appealing to use -- and if they do it right it will be the most appealing computer ever -- millions of people will use it as their main mobile device in situations where they would otherwise use a netbook or a laptop. People will get used to doing real work on it, and app developers will step up and offer real applications.
If you're having trouble envisioning this, an MBA student at Georgia State University cobbled together this video, which shows what this might look and feel like.
The user community will call for more, More, MORE! And Apple will happily oblige. But more what?
More screen. The first tablet should be about 10 inches, according to the rumor. The next one could be 17, then 21, then 41.
The 41-inch touch-Mac will of course not be a mobile device. It will sport a drafting-table like design that swivels. It will tilt up for presentations, TV and movies, and down flat to serve as a physical desk or tabletop. All these devices will have on-screen keyboards, but the big ones will have optional physical keyboards. Mice will be obsolete.
Apple has been working on this for years, as has Microsoft and dozens of major university laboratories.
In fact, Microsoft already ships a multi-touch PC, which it calls Surface -- but only to businesses who use them for limited marketing purposes. Microsoft this week opened up its Surface Partner Community to all existing Microsoft partners, which includes a whopping 640,000 developers.
Microsoft will probably start with a desktop version of Surface, and work with partners to increasingly offer smaller versions and mobile versions. Apple, on the other hand, will probably start small with a tablet and evolve upward. I'm sure will see several multi-touch UIs for Linux.
Yes, there will be competition. But I believe it will be Apple's tablet that mainstreams the next-generation user interface for computing. If the rumors are true -- and I believe and hope they are -- the future begins in October.
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