An Apple tablet: Desirable for music and presentations, but oh so much more!

With rumours of an Apple touch tablet not abating, I want to elaborate further on my presentation-centric post below, where I suggested the new touch device could have multiple uses other than as a music device. It would of course be an ideal e-book reader, and one can image a user interface which simulates a page turn.

Using one finger flicking from right to left moves it one page, using two fingers (something Apple has already demonstrated on the iPhone/iPod Touch and Macbook Pro) would move it to the next chapter, while a double tap might take you back to the Table of Contents or Index, with another double tap taking you back to where you left off.

Hovering your finger over a word would bring up its dictionary meaning, complete with synonyms and antonyms, while publishers could include a hotlink to other works of the same author at various places within the pages. Reference books of course would hotlink to journals and PUBMED and Library of Congress listings, as well as the increasing library of reference works within YouTube.

One can imagine children no longer needing to lumber great quantities of books to school, and publishers could easily keep books updated as new studies emerge. I’m offering an educated guess that (pardon the pun) educators will be keeping a very close eye on what any Apple tablet with bring, and what may emerge in an App Store setting. Not to mention newspapers and magazines updating on a regular basis (upon a paid subscription of course): newspapers on the hour or with breaking news, and magazines on a daily basis. The tablet would offer an instant “Letters to the Editor” social commentary area, with the better letters chosen by an editor and highlighted, much like that found currently in the New York Times.

But what of commercial uses? I’ve already suggested its utility as a presenter’s tool, allowing annotation and creation of presentation slides on the fly. I want to go back some decades and see what can be learnt from the application of technologies to familiar situations.

In the sixties when I was but a teenager, one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne – a trendsetter – was a place called McClure’s, just off the city’s main central boulevard called St. Kilda Road.

Patrons sat in booths and open tables with menus already provided prior to being seated. You looked through the menu then picked up the telephone at your table and rang in your order, much as you did if you ordered take out from home. There were still wait staff to bring you your order or to answer questions, but it was a cute idea at the time, no doubt modelled on an American experience.

Now just imagine you bring your iTablet to the restaurant and when you open your browser it automatically opens to the restaurant’s menu via a wifi auto setup. You can flip through pages with illustrations of the food or drinks, and read some history the chef and sommelier have provided of the restaurant’s food and wine. You can even check a list of ingredients if you wish and have an updated calorie count of your entire meal. Those with special food needs will find this a real boon, and we’re already seeing something similar happen with diabetic apps on the iPhone/iPod touch platform.

You could even pay for the bill and leave a tip, all online if you chose. But why wait until you got to the restaurant to check out the menu and prices? Why not do it before you leave, and place your order – and yes, pay for it – on your way. Now of course, for some restaurant experiences such automation would be anathema. You want the interaction with the staff, to question them about the food and wine, and enjoy a rich dining experience in a more traditional sense. I’m merely painting a picture of where things could go, and probably already are to a degree with the iPhone.

Let’s move to an art gallery now. You visit a new exhibition, and rather than picking up a booklet, you hook into the wifi once more and tour the exhibits, listening to the artist describe his or her works, and providing you with an online place to offer a bid.

What about Real Estate? Enter a property you’re considering purchasing and rather than taking back with you those expensive and wasteful multicoloured brochures, you download on the spot the property’s details and a copy of the sale contract to peruse with your lawyer. You also get a virtual tour to share or review and engage in a conversation with the realtor at some other time.

So, while it may be the case that music and entertainment appear to be the early targets for an enhanced fuller sized iPod Touch, other commercial realities will no doubt emerge. Think how hospitals, airlines, and even law enforcement might find uses for the device. The idea will be to stop thinking of it as a laptop computer or a netbook equivalent, and thus keeping yourself stuck in old ways of managing your knowledge.

Think of it more as an electronic valet, not quite what the original Knowledge Navigator was conceived to be, but not that far off either. Especially if Voice Activation and control is where the action goes. More like the electronic newspaper featured in Minority Report, for now at least. (See the music video clip of the film, below, especially @ 1m29s)

A device like this has been coming for twenty years or so. Not a PC, not a netbook, not a tablet computer as they currently exist, but a new way of interacting with data.

Are you ready for it?

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