Apple launched the MacBookAir to great fanfare in some circles with much celebration about the form factor and design of the device. The Steve-note certainly highlighted the sleekness of this device and to give weight to the argument, compared it to a Sony Vaio. Other sites have a more detailed comparison here.

The real value I think is in the ‘Touch’ interface developed first for the iPhone and the iPod touch. The MBA has touch on the trackpad so you can resize photos, scroll, swipe, rotate, zoom and other motions to interface with the screen. But wouldn’t it be great if you had a screen you could do this on directly? So make the screen touch sensitive (like the iPhone) and all of a sudden you have the Apple tablet, with a better interface than the UMPC.

I have seen people who first encounter a PC try to either take the mouse and lift it off the table and point it at the screen, or often, put it directly on the screen and try to manipulate the icons directly. As seasoned users we may scoff at this behaviour but its not really as unsophisticated as it sounds.

If you think about it, this is an entirely natural way [See this fantastic presentation by Jeff Han about Multi-touch] of interacting with items, and the fact that we (Microsoft and Apple really) tend to describe the working surface of the PC as a “desktop” really makes folks believe that they can rearrange things to the same degree as in the physical world. Microsoft  is looking at this with their surface initiative and you could even draw a comparison with Nintendo’s Wii; that interacting with something on a screen with some sort of “controller” that has no real relationship with the actual task is not intuitive.

So even though rumors of an Apple tablet have been squelched before for a variety of reasons, I think for them it is the next logical evolution of a mobile device.  When users can’t go to the small form factor of an iPhone, with a great user interface they could be persuaded to give up lugging a heavy laptop around. And besides, it’s something that Microsoft/Intel tried (and weren’t too successful at) . And Apple has never been one to shy away from a challenge.


Tom Krazit from Cnet has also written about this today (Feb. 26th) in his blog article “Has Apple found the magic Touch?”