How would you radically improve the iPad? You’d give it more powerful processing, enabling more powerful apps.
How would you improve the 27-inch iMac? You’d make it 37 inches.
How would you create an Apple desktop computer for business? You’d make it work like an iPad, but double as a boardroom device for presentations and video conferencing.
And how would you improve TV and make it Applish? You’d build in a computer, Apple TV-like functions and give it a remote.
If you think about it, these obvious improvements are not moving these four product lines away from each other, but toward each other — resulting in a single super product that does it all.
What if Apple’s next iPad, iMac, business PC and TV set are all one iDevice?
Almost every company in technology evolves their product lines from a starting point of fewer and simpler models to more and more complex ones.
Apple, on the other hand, thinks different. They try (they don’t always succeed) to unify and simplify. For example, they don’t have separate devices for consumers and education, or consumers and business. It’s the same phone, the same tablet and the same Mac.
In fact, no Apple device since the iPod has been exclusively designed for consumers or for business. Every Apple product since the iPhone shipped in 2007 has been designed for both consumers and business.
So when people predict that Apple will ship a TV exclusively designed for consumers in the living room, they’re also predicting that Apple will violate its five-year-old policy.
I think it’s possible that Apple may pull off the Mother of All unifications — to create a giant iPad that serves business people in the board room and consumers in the living room.
Everybody, including and especially Moore and his Law, expect the iPad line to get increasingly powerful processors, more RAM, faster graphics chips. This is simply going to happen. This improved capability will enable better apps, more console-like games, more OS X-like applications for iPads of all sizes.
Apple has to improve the iMac — they’ve already made it super thin and super elegant. Yes, they’ll make it more powerful, too, but what us users really want is a bigger screen. Many of us want Apple to continue adding touch-like user interface elements, as Apple has already begun to do with the Launchpad, better gestures and all the other iOS-like improvements.
Combine these two ideas, and image that the next iMac is a 37-inch iPad. It’s powerful like the iMac, but runs a new, more capable version of iOS. Tilt it back, and it works like an iPad, with multi-touch gestures. Tilt it up, and use a bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad and it works much like an iMac. Talk to it, and it works like an iPhone running Siri.
By now you’re probably thinking of the limitations: It’s not mobile or portable like a real iPad. And it’s not able to run OS X-level desktop applications like the iMac.
So where would someone use such a mutant device?
The answer: in business and in the living room.
The business-desktop iPad
The corporate world, from small businesses to major enterprises, has gone gaga for iOS devices, both iPhone and iPad. They love the hyper-simplicity, visual appeal and the usefulness and flexibility of apps.
But business people of all kinds still need a big screen. Right now, even iPhone- and iPad-happy business people usually use Windows PCs at work — but hesitate to move to iMacs. They want full-size word processing documents and spreadsheets. They want email and web surfing. And they need big screens to do presentations and to bring in remote meeting attendees with video conferencing.
A giant desktop iPad could be used like an iPad or a PC or a presentation screen. It would simply need to be oriented in one of three angles — mostly flat for iPad mode, mostly upright for PC mode or perfectly vertical for presentation and video conferencing mode.
(Come to think of it, such a device would be really great for education, too.)
In order to use the device for presentations and videoconferencing, you’d also want a very simple remote control.
And you know where else you’d want a remote control?
The consumer-TV iPad
The specs on this 37-inch desktop iPad would be the same as any reasonable Apple TV set you might imagine. All you’d need is something similar to an Apple TV box built in.
The ability to do things that Apple TV can do — connect to the Internet, iTunes and iCloud; do AirPlay and AirPlay mirroring; find any HD content anywhere and play it — these are things that both business users would want and consumers watching TV would want.
The current version of Apple TV is $99, so building in these same capabilities would be a trivial expense for Apple.
The naysayers who say Apple won’t make a TV set because it won’t sell enough units haven’t considered that the Apple TV set may also be sold as an all-purpose Business PC and an educational desktop as well, multiplying unit sales.
I think there’s a very real chance that Apple’s next iPad, business PC, iMac and TV set are all one in the same device: A giant iPad that does it all.
Would you buy one?