The Apple Tablet: What It Needs to Be Useful for Web Working

I’m excited about the much-hyped Apple tablet, which is expected to be unveiled next week. I would be excited if Apple (s aapl) was releasing a new device that only provided me with a painful electric shock every hour on the hour, frankly. That said, once I get past my natural inclination towards what Cupertino does, I’m a little skeptical about how much I’ll actually be able to use the device I will most certainly buy.

I’m particularly skeptical that I’ll find it useful for work. No doubt I’ll find ample reason to use it for amusement and idle time-killing. The possibility of a larger-scale version of iPhone’s Peggle alone adds up to countless wasted hours. But will I also use it to enhance my productivity? I suppose we’ll find out next week, but before we do, here’s what I’d need for the Tablet to be useful in my work.


I’d like, if I had my druthers, 3G connectivity and Wi-Fi. It’s not something I think we’re very likely to see, though. There will be Wi-Fi, to be sure, but 3G or an always-on connection like the Kindle 2 has is probably just a pipe dream.

If that does turn out to be the case, then there’s one thing I will definitely require of an Apple tablet to get work done on the go: tethering. iPhone tethering is the single most useful thing, workwise, that Apple has done for me to date. If a tablet doesn’t have 3G, but allows me to tether my 3GS, which does, everything will be perfect.

Bluetooth is a must, and I doubt very much that it won’t make its way in. The key will be what Bluetooth profiles are supported. A2DP and hopefully file transfer protocols will be included, but the big question is whether or not Apple will get over its love affair with on-screen keyboards and include input device profiles, too. The ability to use a keyboard with the device would go a long way to making it more productive.

Better Browsing

Mobile Safari is a very capable browser, but there’s much more you can do once you start increasing the screen size of your device. With a 10-inch screen, which is what most of the rumors are saying the Apple tablet will sport, things like proper tabbed browsing become a much more reasonable proposition.

Beyond tabbed browsing, a version of Safari running on a larger, more powerful device can also take other cues from its desktop cousin. How about support for extensions? That would go a long way toward making this tablet a better alternative for when you can’t get to a computer.

Finally, my blue sky request would be that the tablet platform would support alternative browsers. Some Firefox or Chrome action would be just what the doctor ordered, but don’t hold your breath.

More Juice

If the iPhone is setting the standard, then it stands to reason that a bigger more powerful device with a better display will have much shorter battery life. Hopefully that isn’t the case. But how to judge? The iPhone has terrific battery life for a computer, but its awful if you’re thinking in terms of mobile phones.

Ideally, the tablet maintains the battery life the 3GS has, not scaled down proportionally as its size increase. That would mean true all-day use, pretty much, which would be a real boon to productivity on the road. Hopefully the slim battery tech Apple uses in its MacBook Pros can be refined and put to even better use in the new tablet.

Everything Else

These are the things I’ll need to truly incorporate an Apple tablet into my workflow in a meaningful and permanent way. They aren’t the only things, of course, but they are the less-obvious features that are not sure to be included. Great app support will also be a big factor, but that’s something Apple clearly doesn’t need help with, whether the tablet uses OS X or a modified iPhone OS.

What are you looking forward to from next week’s Apple announcement? Do you think it’ll have an effect on how you work?

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