The Tablet

So, tomorrow brings us The Tablet. The mythical gadget that people have been hyping for years, and more recently, losing their fucking minds over, is real. I don’t care. Really, I just don’t see the need for a 10″ tablet in my life. I’m only willing to accept the limitations of my iPhone (or any modern smartphone) because it lives in my pocket. Once I have to toss something in my bag, its competing with my 15″ Macbook Pro. I’m assuming that those laptops are going to be upgraded with Core i5 chips soon, so that’s some serious competition for my money.

But I’m not here to sit back and chuckle smugly at the Appletards who’re going to be lining up to buy this thing. Quite the contrary. I’ll be following the liveblogs and am fully prepared to be blown away. I just don’t see the need right now. The thing that I’m excited about is the software. Tablets have been around forever. There’s not going to be anything surprising about Apple’s hardware. It’ll look slick as hell, probably have an iPod dock connector and probably have the first PA Semi silicon. Its not going to run Mac OS X. Microsoft has done that for years and it sucks. Its not going to run the iPhone OS, because its not a one-handed device. So logic dictates that it will be something in between. The fact that the top Apple execs are openly talking about how great it is leads me to believe that its going to be damn good.

Like other people, I’m pretty sure that the Tablet OS is going to be more iPhone than Mac. What has me more excited is the fact that Apple doesn’t like to duplicate effort, which means that a lot the Tablet OS is going to make its way into the iPhone OS. I’ve been complaining about the philosophy of the iPhone OS since at least 2.0. I have 117 apps sitting in iTunes (but many of those aren’t installed on my phone). If an app is beyond the second homescreen, I just search for it. Likewise, if a contact isn’t in my favorites list, I search. Its just not worth expending the mental effort to recall where all this crap is. Having an app-centric homescreen is no longer tenable. The homescreen needs to be favorite-centric with the apps moved to their own area. Android gets this very, very right. I don’t use more than 10 or so apps on a daily basis. Likewise, I don’t call more than 3 numbers daily (and only have nine favorites). I want these to live in my homescreen, everything else can live in a searchable database elsewhere.

The same is true for notifications. Modal notifications suck. You can only see one at a time, and only the most recent one. They interrupt what I’m doing and force me to ignore them or leave my current app to take care of them. There’s no way around it, and Apple must know it. Android has a much better way of dealing with notifications with its shelf. WebOS has an even better implementation than Android’s. Both the iPhone and Tablet OS’s need multitasking. The Tablet is not going to get away with running one full screen app at a time, especially with the hardware that I suspect its going to be sporting. Honestly, the same is true of the iPhone. Apple’s rationale of battery life and memory doesn’t really hold water with the 3GS. I’ve been running Backgrounder and Pro Switcher on my 3GS for months now and I have to say that having Tweetie, Instapaper, GV Mobile and whatever doesn’t harm the battery. In fact, the thing that was impacting my battery the most was push Gmail. When I went back to regular IMAP, I was shocked at how much that positively impacted my daily battery life. As much as that says about Google’s inability to run a mobile push server, it says that much more for the 3GS to have backgrounding turned on.

Make no mistake: the 3GS has the hardware chops to run full, native backgrounding.

With that being said, both the iPhone and Tablet need a graceful and intuitive way to kill apps. While I’m at it, neither OS should allow third party apps to run in the background in the first place without being explicitly told to do so by the user. Not everything needs to run in the background all the time, or even at all. Palm has a really good thing going in WebOS with the card metaphor. Pro Switcher stole the idea and it works really well.

So, yeah, that’s really all I want out of tomorrow: a useful homescreen, backgrounding added to the SDK and a non-shitty notification system. I won’t mind if Steve blows my fucking mind with the MOST IMPORTANT THING HE’S EVER DONE, but that would just be gravy.

On the other hand, if Apple releases a Core i5 Macbook Pro with Lightpeak wrapped with hookers and blow as one more thing…

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