A shiny canvas…

Earlier tonight, I stopped by the Apple Store I used to work in. I’m in the middle of revamping my apartment, essentially turning it into a real home as opposed to just a place to crash in.

The sense of excitement was physical – even though Apple Retail folks don’t know before the fact what’s going to be announced at an Apple Event, the general feeling was that this event would be a doozy, probably right up there with the iPhone introduction.

I’m fairly certain that Apple is going to announce a tablet of some kind. No one knows what it’s going to look like, or how it’s going to work, but if past is prologue, it’s going to be awesome. I know that McGraw-Hill’s CEO kind of spilt the beans, but pause for a second, and pay attention to what he said:

  • that Apple would introduce a tablet, and
  • that it would be iPhone OS-based.

I know that everyone that expected the Tablet to be essentially a big-ass iPod Touch is saying some variation of “I told you so!”, or that this guy is nine kinds of loser-riffic for leaking this.

I’m here to say: not so fast.

The first was a known known. Everything for the last month or so, and likely longer, has been pointing to this event as a major release. I’m not ruling out Steve Jobs saying something like, “Oh, and one more thing…introducing…the iPod Hi-Fi HDin quadraphonic sound!”, followed by the cataclysm caused by several million heads exploding in incomprehension.

But I digress. Everything from a circumstantial standpoint points to Apple introducing the Tablet to the world tomorrow between 10 and noon Pacific. Terry McGraw wasn’t saying anything we didn’t really know deep down inside.

In other words, confirmation, not revelation. That’s not what interests me, though.

What interests me is the second of the two points: that the Tablet is based on iPhone OS.

Again, before you guys yell out, “ItoldyouItoldyoubigassiTouchbigassiTouchBIGASSITOUCH!!1ONE!!?1”, simmer down. Slow your roll, boss. Pause, and ponder a moment, will you?

Notice the key word there? No, not iPhone.

The key word is based.

CEOs, for lots of reasons, largely dictated by legions of relentless, harried legal professionals, speak very carefully. Now, I don’t think that this was a deliberate leak – it was way too sloppy and off-hand for that – but I noticed one thing.

For such a fundamental thing, a thing that many, many people have been waiting years for Apple to release, McGraw sure didn’t spend a lot of time discussing it. It’s a thing that’s potentially going to make the company he runs a ton of money. And yet, the phrasing he used was curiously specific for a man that, charitably speaking, doesn’t seem to be too technologically proficient – not that reporter Erin Burnett, who’s decidedly younger, is any better*.

Here’s the whole quote, taken from the footage:

“Yeah, Very exciting. Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now — we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95% of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.”

If you look at the footage, McGraw actually slips a couple of times and calls the Tablet “tabloid”, not that that means anything, but it’s a mark of nervousness.

So, here’s my conclusion, based on this quote:

  1. the Tablet will not run Flash;
  2. it will probably run some apps in the background: more than the iPhone, less than a Mac. You probably won’t run full apps like Photoshop, but you’ll be able to do something like Photoshop.com, move that to the back, pull up Safari, then move on over to Mail. You get the drift.
  3. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the GUI for the Tablet is something out of 10/GUI land, with an input mechanism out of Swype territory. Remember, just because it’s based on iPhone OS doesn’t mean it’s going to look like iPhone OS.

I say again, for emphasis: just because it’s based on iPhone OS doesn’t mean it’s going to look like iPhone OS.

It’s probably based on iPhone OS because it’s not meant to be a full computer, as we understand the term today – yet. Like John Gruber, I think that eventually, the Tablet will replace the MacBook. That will not happen tomorrow, nor for some time to come. It just starts tomorrow.

As for my guesses on GUI and input, I’m basing those on those systems (10/GUI and Swype) because they seem like rough drafts for something that would be engineered at Cupertino. 10/GUI, though it’s only a concept, is nevertheless fairly well designed; as for Swype, it’s an easy to learn, reasonably fast way to enter information on a touchscreen using a virtual keyboard.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

*At the end of the segment, Burnett says “I’m glad I went to school when I could smell textbooks,” or some such. All in all, it was a weird, awkwardly done segment. If I were hearing it, not watching it, I’d swear it was one of the mock tapings that we do at my journalism school. Just had that herky-jerky quality. And notice that Burnett just goes ahead and treats the Tablet like it was a done deal – thus leading to the accidental leak.

But, hey, it’s CNBC – what do you expect?

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