Before sharing more of my own speculations about Apple’s highly anticipated product announcement coming this Wednesday, I’ll echo those of John Siracusa in his New Year’s post, “Antacid tablet:”

I have no inside information. All of the predictions below are purely speculative. If you don’t want to read yet another blog post about what someone thinks the Apple tablet will be like based on nothing more than intuition and guesswork, click away now. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

That post by John as well as Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s New Year’s post, “Tablet: Big iPhone or thin MacBook?” are two of the best I’ve read to date attempting to stare into the crystal ball of Apple’s computing future. I shared some of my ideas last fall in my Oct 1 post, “Apple iPad rumors, Netbooks, and Commodifcation,” my Christmas day post, “Get ready for an exciting year to read (and share) media,” and my Jan 5th post, “Access your notes even after your textbook subscription expires.” To those ideas, I’ll add the following conjectures.

1. iSlate Videoconferencing

Ever since I saw Steve Jobs demo the iPhone at MacWorld in January 2007, I’ve been dreaming of ubiquitous videoconferencing with a portable device MUCH smaller and lighter than a laptop. The iPhone has the camera on the wrong side for videoconferencing. I don’t think that will be the case with the iSlate. I predict we’ll see a built-in webcam, just like we do on Mac portables today, and it will have full support for videoconferencing with both iChat and Skype. I think the device will be sold with optional cellular service, but it won’t be a lock-in for AT&T only. More providers will be able to sell service on the device. Either way, with 3G or 4G cellular data connectivity or with Wifi, I predict the iSlate will revolutionize how we think about videoconferencing. This is a BIG deal, and I think it will be a revolution.

videoconferencing with iChat

2. Redefining Textbooks with Interactive Multimedia

As I guessed in my Christmas day post, “Get ready for an exciting year to read (and share) media,” I think iTunes U is going to play a pivotal role in the new iSlate’s success. The tea leaves are pretty clear to see, if you have watched the rise of iTunes U functionality in the latest versions of iTunes. Every Apple rep I’ve heard at conferences has been touting iTunes U. This isn’t an accident, in my view, it’s part of Apple’s strategy to focus market attention on what WILL hopefully be a revolution in the textbook industry. I hopefully predict Apple will succeed in disintermediating the textbook publishing industry the way it has opened the door to digital music publishing and purchasing. I predict we’ll see multiple textbook publishers share the stage with Steve on Wednesday, announcing not JUST the availability of digitized eBooks on the iSlate (like the Kindle and Sony eReader offer, essentially) but truly MULTIMEDIA eTexts and INTERACTIVE books. I’m betting the iSlate will be an ideal publishing platform for the Technology 4 Teachers curriculum I’m continuing to write/develop this semester, based on the Powerful Ingredients for Blended Learning framework I’m co-developing with Karen Montgomery. Lecturecasting portals like the one I’ve created this term for T4T are going to be ideal for the iTablet.

Books aren't dead

3. No iTunes Sync Required

Philip Elmer-DeWitt asked on New Year’s day, “Tablet: Big iPhone or thin MacBook?” My prediction is: Definitely a thin MacBook. One of the biggest limitations of the iPhone and iPod Touch currently is they have to be tethered to a desktop or laptop computer at some point. Although Apple has made great strides to permit media to be downloaded on mobile devices, and MANY more functionalities of both the iPhone and iPod Touch no longer require a desktop sync, that is still required for those devices. They are designed as additions-to an existing computer, not replacements for it. I predict the forthcoming iSlate will be a computer replacement. You won’t need to sync it. Of course it will be beautiful and fast. Sadly, it will also be pretty expensive. No commoditized netbook here. But it will be fundamentally differentiated from the iPod Touch and the iPhone in that it won’t require a sync. I predict it will backup to a desktop or laptop computer, but it will alternatively backup to an online service like Mozy or a Time Capsule WiFi base station.

close up of iTunes screen

So those are my predictions. Why have I titled this post, “Apple Gambling Big to Redefine Digital Literacy?” Because with the iSlate, Apple is poised to redefine how we think about computers. The iPhone IS a computer, but it is fundamentally still a tethered device. Computers are untethered. They don’t require docking or syncing. They are autonomous. After Wednesday’s presentation, I think we’re going to be looking at tablet devices in new ways, not as “mere” eBook readers, but rather as fully-functional computers. Why are you and I going to want an iTablet, even if we already have one or more laptop computers and portable devices? Because the iSlate will be a device with which we’ll interact in fundamentally different ways that we do now with either a smartphone or a laptop. We’ll pull it out to read the news, communicate with the world, and watch video, but we’ll also CREATE video and edit it just like we would on a desktop computer. The iSlate will replace our current computers, and that is why it will help redefine digital literacy.

Bottom line, of course: Everyone who sees us use an iSlate will think we are REALLY cool. Apple makes being a geek amazingly chic.

Time will tell, we just have 2 days to wait!

One more note. I love Apple, and I love the core values it has stood for historically. Want to know what those are in sixty seconds? This ten year old video of Steve Jobs talking about core values gives you the answer. Passionate, dedicated people CAN and DO change the world. That’s me, and that’s you. It’s us. Viva la revolucion!

H/T to Fake Steve Jobs.

P.S. By Chris Foresman agrees with my prediction on the multiple cellular players prediction, in his post yesterday for Ars Technica, “Days before iTablet-palooza, the rumor hits keep comin’.” I actually read it after penning this post. :-)

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  • http://problemfinding.labanca.net Frank LaBanca

    Wes, I was particularly influenced by the Kennedy Center quote for “art integration” and was moved to take that definition and relate it to my domain: science education. I’ve modifed the statement and have a bit more detail and thought on my blog .

    Here’s my version:
    Science integration An APPROACH to TEACHING in which students construct and demonstrate UNDERSTANDING through INQUIRY-BASED QUESTIONS AND INVESTIGATION. Students engage in CREATIVE AND LOGICAL/ANALYTICAL PROCESSES which CONNECTS SCIENCE and another subject or skill domain and meets EVOLVING OBJECTIVES in both.

  • http://problemfinding.labanca.net Frank LaBanca

    Sorry for bad location: I’ll put it on the right post – feel free to delete.

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