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GUI Handhelds Apple Hardware

The Apple Tablet Interface Must Be Like This 278

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
kylevh writes "On one side, there are the people who think that a traditional GUI—one built on windows, folders and the old desktop metaphor—is the only way to go for a tablet. In another camp, there are the ones who are dreaming about magic 3D interfaces and other experimental stuff, thinking that Apple would come up with a wondrous new interface that nobody can imagine now, one that will bring universal love, world peace and pancakes for everyone. Both camps are wrong: The iPhone started a UI revolution, and the tablet is just step two. Here's why." There are lots of cool UI ideas in there, even if it is entirely speculation. It's worth a read just to think about what the future could be like.
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The Apple Tablet Interface Must Be Like This

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  • but can it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by KaimaraZatar (1267396) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:29PM (#30848854) Journal
    run linux?
  • Files (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:32PM (#30848872)

    It is okay for files to go away, right up until the point that I notice I can't access some data because it is stuck in some app.

    And I don't mean that files should never go away, I just mean that each time I notice it, I get confirmation that they aren't done making whatever it was that they changed work correctly yet.

  • yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:33PM (#30848888)

    i hereby nominate apple speculation as the most boring internet subculture

  • Missed a story? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mathx314 (1365325) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:34PM (#30848914)
    Oh, huh, I must have missed the announcement that the Apple tablet wasn't just a rumor but actually a real thing. Odd, normally I'm on top of things like that. Oh well.
  • by alen (225700) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:40PM (#30848982)

    netbooks have crappy margins. building a tablet where you are forced to buy "content" just to use it is a stealth way of increasing average revenue per unit

  • We'll see. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onion2k (203094) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:40PM (#30848992) Homepage

    It's true enough that a tablet PC that's essentially just a scaled up iPhone would be pretty cool. If it's based on something similar to iPhone OS it'd be easy for developers to port existing apps too, so the App Store would fill up with software for it relatively quickly too. A tablet scale version of Orbital would be brilliant.

    But...

    It'd cost a lot. It wouldn't be particularly usable for traditional apps like email. It'd be great for watching films and stuff, but not as good as a TV. I guess it'd appeal to a narrow band of Apple nerds; even fewer than bought into the Macbook Air. While I'm sure Apple are capable of releasing something like that, and making a profit out of it, I can't help but think they're cleverer than that. Whatever is coming is going to have to be bigger (in the sense of appealing to the populace rather than a tiny subset of it) than a mere tablet even if they make it super snazzy.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:41PM (#30849008) Homepage

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people think that things like files
    and folders are too confusing for the novice. They are a pretty intuitive
    metaphor and heirarchical organization is something that humans tend to do
    naturally. A lot of this seems to be mindless fear mongering and I really
    don't get what the "self interest" is here.

    A "normal" person can navigate Virgin Megastore but they can't do the same
    thing with the same content in files and folders?

    Nonsense.

    People are being actively discouraged from exploring the interface and gaining
    any understanding it. This is limiting even with this "revolutionary new UI"
    that the iphone is supposed to be.

    Even the "databases" that files get sucked into still end up being simple and
    relatively flat heirarchies.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:46PM (#30849072)
    The "briefcase" size is the maximum transportable computer size with the most comfortable size screen, keyboard; largest battery, memories, peripherals.
    The booksize computer is the smallest screen that gives you decent megapixel. So much software and webpages runs out-of-the-box for the megapixel screen and not on the one-eighth siblings- the smartphones. The book size easily fits into a daypack or handbag.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:46PM (#30849080) Homepage

    Raskin describes this idea of the interface for every task being different. The device mutates and models itself on whatever is being done. The UI CHANGES to suit the task.

    This sounds remarkably like the EXACT OPPOSITE of the sort of "consistency" that's supposed to be the bedrock of "good interfaces".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:51PM (#30849142)

    Has anyone RTFA??? The author claims that the iPhone is radical because it "transforms" into various appliances.... an idea lead by the "visionary" Jef Raskins (Oh, let's forget about that stupid Canon Cat idea which kinda F'd up any idea of how much of a Nostradamus this guy was.

    It's called "Maximize" in any modern GUI. Hide the start menu, make your screen black, set up "one touch" for desktop icons, and every application now magically has an iPhone interface.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:52PM (#30849154)

    The article author seems to think that the iPhone interface is going to take over everything. That the app-that-takes-over-the-whole-screen paradigm is the universal solution to all computing.

    We did that, twenty years ago. As soon as we developed computers powerful enough to multitask, we did. And I don't mean playing music in the background, but running multiple programs at once and interacting with them. For a small screen mobile device the one app at a time paradigm is pretty much mandatory. For larger screens, you want to see multiple things at a time.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @02:53PM (#30849166) Homepage

    There's a difference between devices that are mostly for receiving information, and those that are for doing something with it. Music players, "e-book" readers, navigation devices, and entertainment devices in general are mostly-receive. They need a much simpler interface than a creation device. Try to cram a CAD application into the iPhone interface. [cadtouch.com] It's possible, but it's not happy there.

    This is a bigger distinction than the form factor. Mostly-receive devices can get along with a blunt interface of big buttons.

  • I get that the idea of an Apple tablet is intriguing, but is it worth all the stories popping up in the tech world? I mean, there's speculation about it showing up on gaming blogs. Lots of these articles are genuine, but I'm starting to smell a little astroturf too.

    It's the biggest story in personal electronics for the next 6 days. After the iPod and the iPhone, Apple coming out with a new product is a major deal - particularly in how it influences the already existing markets of, respectively, music players, smartphones, and tablets.

  • Re:We'll see. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:06PM (#30849348)

    I think you're overlooking the overall design. TFA alludes to it well, but I'll be explicit about it:

    Apple is looking into killing the Mac as we know it.

    They have a world in their mind's eye where they control all content through a single iTunes store. Your phone, your appliance, your workstation - all the same, with all of their users shopping directly from Apple itself. All applications that the machine will run are vetted and controlled, and Apple gets a cut of everything. They also get gobs and gobs of data from the purchase habits and the apps themselves.

    If this tablet succeeds, they inch closer to their goal. Thus, they could well slash the cost, probably beyond any hopes of a profit, towards achieving their goal of getting a cut on all the software.

    And if you like a world where you can download and run free software, this concept probably should frighten you, at least a little. Because if Apple does it, and does it right, the world will follow behind them.

    At any rate, bookmark this post. You may want to come back later and compare it to what actually happened... ;)

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:10PM (#30849418) Journal
    "is it worth all the stories popping up in the tech world? "

    Thank you!

    Actually I'll take it a step forward: shut-up already! Tell me when it comes out and give me a full review with a components breakdown. I'm so incredibly tired of every tech site I go to running a article every day with potential design mock-ups, hypothetical processor specs, and emerging screen technologies that might appear in the new not-formally-announced Apple tablet. I've been reading Apple Tablet stories on slashdot for five years [slashdot.org], and frankly I'm tired of hearing about it.

    This thing has more hype than Duke Nukem Forever and half the credibility, at least Duek Nukem Forever had confirmed release dates [kotaku.com].

    So what about it /., am I still going to be reading Apple Tablet might-have stories on /. in 2015, or can we finally stop beating this very dead horse and bury it until it's really released?
  • by starglider29a (719559) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:17PM (#30849522)
    To quote^H^H^H^H^Haparaphrase an IBM commercial: "...the greatest thing since sliced bread. But the person who invented sliced bread didn't invent bread. He didn't even invent slicing."

    Take all of the "like..." statements you made, which are all over the map, and put it all in one place. "putting bunch of existing things all together"... is the revolution.

    Saying there is nothing new here is like saying that you take some rockets, some heat shielding, some wings and make the space shuttle. No biggie.
  • by ae1294 (1547521) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:20PM (#30849560) Journal

    This is the sixth article this month on Slashdot directly relating to a apple {vaporware} tablet...

  • Re:new? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Laxitive (10360) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:22PM (#30849596) Journal

    It's not that 3d user interfaces have been fully explored, but that simulated 3d interfaces on 2d desktops have some fundamental limitations. We already have some amount of simulated pseudo-depth: windows can lie on top of other windows, etc.

    The problem is that by the time you get around to interacting with something, you're interacting with a 2d euclidean plane which presents a projection of some 3d model. It doesn't make the plane 3d. You can't reach around and touch the "middle" of an 3d object projected onto a 2d plane. That's a problem. These might be somewhat ameliorated by true 3d interfaces (where the display itself is 3d), but that tech has yet to mature.

    If you think about it, even the way we work on our typical desk is mostly 2d, from a topological perspective. I have a pile of papers and some random crap lying around my desk. When I go to grab a document to work on, I don't just reach into the middle of a stack and pull out the right one. I don't have that capability. I need to go and start flipping pages, basically morphing my 2d topology to reveal some object hidden in 3d, and only then interact with it.

    That's not to say that all 3d effects and stuff are useless. Simulated 3d is a great way of providing visual cues that we have been training ourselves on since we opened our eyes. That can be a very important aspect of intuitive interfaces.. but fundamentally it acts as a visual highlight. The goodness or badness of any particular 3d interface depends entirely on how effectively the _2d_ projection is.

    Thirdly, "true" 3d is actually too limiting. We are forced to live in a 3d world, but our computers give us access to many more dimensions, weirder dimensions, than that. We can provide 2d projections of abstract non-fixed-dimensional objects, like n-ary trees (e.g. filesystems). An example of a projection of that abstract object to a 2d interface would be spotlight. It provides a 2d textbox which behaves in strange and weird ways - a 2d textbox that projects 2d manipulations (type some characters), into an arbitrary traversal of the tree. Compare the utility of that to the utility of a "true" 3d rendered filesystem. What value would that add? Sure, it would look neat, but what extra thing would you gain from it?

    There's nothing magic about 3d. Computers operate above and beyond limitations of 3 dimensions, and are currently constrained to expose their behaviour through primarily 2d interfaces. Simulating 3d on top of 2d user interfaces, aside from the "visual cue" aspect, is kind of an arbitrary choice.. not necessarily the best one.

    -Laxitive

  • by radish (98371) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:22PM (#30849600) Homepage

    As you say, it was the combination and the polish. There's no one thing (that I can think of) on the iPhone that you can't find on some previous device/software. But there's also no previous device with all (or even many) of those things, polished to such a high degree. From a feature list point of view it's certainly evolutionary - but I'd certainly say it was revolutionary from an overall user experience point of view.

    As the Gizmodo article points out, the general UI idea of a page of icons which load full screen apps is just like Palm. And I was a big Palm fan back in the day - their problem was that although the UI was fine, it was hampered by the tech to the point where even if the concept worked it was so unattractive to use as to be very niche. Resistive touch screens required stylii, which suck. Early models were monochrome, even color models had nothing like the graphical fidelity of the iPhone. The graphics chips couldn't do things like full screen animations, fades, etc and of course there was no such thing as persistent wireless internet (and yes, I had the Palm III GSM modem, it blew chunks even then!). Apple waited until the tech existed to do what they knew would impress people, rather than try to make something they hoped would sell within the limits of the available tech. In the process they pretty much totally reinvented the highend cellphone market and IMHO brought the PDA concept back from the dead.

    My personal story: I'm not an Apple fan. I do own a Mac, but it's my least used machine and I really don't like it very much. I grew up on Atari, DOS/Windows, Palm, Nokia and later Linux. When the iPhone came out I had no intention of buying one, until I happened to be by the Apple store in a mall on launch weekend and popped in to see what all the fuss was about. Within a couple of minutes of playing with it I was in line to buy one, and several upgrades later I have no regrets. I still detest iTunes, and am officially "meh" on OSX, but nothing is tempting me away from the iPhone. Android has potential, but it's not there yet.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:26PM (#30849660) Homepage

    I wouldn't call it astroturfing-- not exactly. These things are fed by Apple's leaks, and it's fairly intentional on Apple's part. It was reported that Apple knew one of their competitors was going to release a tablet (Microsoft?) and leaked information about their own tablet to steal the news cycle.

    However, Apple doesn't really need to feed these things. Apple fans do it to themselves to some extent. Even back in the 90s when Apple was falling apart, Mac fans were tracking the company's progress closely and freaking out about every possible move. Also, there are various business interests involved. News sites want views. There was a video a while back where Jim Cramer talked about starting fake Apple rumors to manipulate stock prices, and surely that sort of stuff plays into all this. They're maniacs.

    There's also (sorry, but it needs to be acknowledged) a valid component to Apple hype. Apple is an innovative company, they release cool products, and they drive technology trends. You might not think they're *that* innovative, but compared to companies like Dell and HP, they really are.

  • by copponex (13876) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:27PM (#30849668) Homepage

    The netbook craze has shown one thing: average users no longer care about speed or enormous screen size. Honestly, I would have never believed anyone if they said I could buy a gigahertz phone in 2010, I'm not sure I would have believed them. If it can play MP3s, 720p, and requires little maintenance, most users are going to be happy.

    Pretty soon the only thing the user is going to care about is the size of the screen. They'll want it to dock to a keyboard and mouse when they sit down to write a paper. Otherwise, they'd like to drag it around the house. It won't be a computer, so much as an interface to their data - as the article states, a true information appliance.

    The Apple product may suck, but it will probably sell people on the idea that tablets are "cool." And in a way, that may be the most important thing to go to the next level of interaction with computers.

    Think about the iMacs that were just released: wireless keyboard and mouse, enormous display with a stand that only requires a power cable. Exchange the stand with a dock and make it smaller with a touch interface. Hopefully they will provide some good hardware I/O on the dock, but again, for the regular users, they won't care if it has every sort of port in the world. As long as they can get on youtube and facebook without having to fuss with a traditional computer, they will be fine.

  • Re:WSJ (Score:3, Insightful)

    by copponex (13876) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:38PM (#30849818) Homepage

    The WSJ spreads rumors about Iraq to protect it's interests. The WSJ doesn't spread rumors about Apple to protect it's interests. If this seems like a moral inconsistency, it is. That would presuppose the staff of the WSJ had any values.

  • by Sancho (17056) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:38PM (#30849826) Homepage

    If the digital handwriting problem could be solved, there would be demand for a tablet. Taking notes is something that computers still don't do particularly well. You can get by, sure, and there are some applications which aid in that, but it's not quite the same as being able to easily sketch or make simple diagrams by hand and integrate those with text.

    The other main use for a tablet form factor is for consumption of media. Touchscreens will probably not be as good as typing for quite a long time, if ever. But if you don't need to type much, then it can be fine. Watching movies and reading books would work with a tablet. The main problem, of course, is cost. When you can buy a laptop that also does those things, why in the world would you bother with paying more money to get a tablet? What do you gain, other than perhaps something which is lighter weight?

  • by Itchyeyes (908311) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:51PM (#30850018) Homepage

    The iPod and iPhone were certainly transformative products, but that's not the case for every single new product Apple announces. How many people here have an Apple TV under their television set? It's certainly exciting to speculate, but like the GP said, it's getting out of hand. Every single blog on the Internet is speculating wildly, and the New York Times [nytimes.com] isn't even taking the time to qualify "news" about the device as rumors anymore. Chances are good that Apple will announce something pretty spectacular next week, but until then I think it would a lot of people some good to simply step back and take a deep breath every once in a while.

  • by Coriolis (110923) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @03:55PM (#30850056)

    I'm surprised you think this. I've watched friends and family (all smart people, before anyone starts implying anything) graduate from novices to regular users, and some to power users. I remember them being initially utterly perplexed by the file and folder metaphor. I couldn't tell you why, but I could suggest why: the metaphor is imperfect. Files and folders do not behave like paper, and the differences in behaviour can be very confusing. For example, if I file something in a physical folder and go to look for it later, there's usually no chance that I'll have look inside a nested folder that is, apart from the name, practically indistinguishable from the one that contains it. The problem seems (to me) to be that users have trouble establishing a sense of place, of where the documents are stored. Where's my letter? What's this "drive" you keep talking about? When I edit this picture, why doesn't it update in both the letters I was writing?

    Geeks don't have this problem, because we think like this. We prefer to break our information down its atoms.

    Don't get me wrong, the metaphor is better than what came before it, but I don't think it's the best we can do.

  • by thesandtiger (819476) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:09PM (#30850270)

    Tell me your address and I'll send the police over immediately - I know it's terrifying being forced to read these stories at gunpoint, but help is on the way!

    Screw talking about some hypothetical gadget - what we should really be discussing is the huge number of people who are being forced to read and comment on articles they don't want to read. Why isn't the government doing something about this?!!

  • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:10PM (#30850274)

    Saying there is nothing new here is like saying that you take some rockets, some heat shielding, some wings and make the space shuttle. No biggie.

    Well, that's an odd metaphor, considering that most generally consider the space shuttle to be a failure at the mission for which it was originally conceived. And two of the five orbiters have been lost to accidents. The overall program safety rate is much worse than the rockets that preceded it.

    The point being, yes, it takes some imagination to put all these things together in a certain way. But just displaying imagination does not equal a revolution. In many ways, the iPhone interface - like the space shuttle - is a step backwards. It's not that people are arguing that the iPhone is exactly like other things. They're arguing that the iPhone doesn't really improve the UI experience from where we were before. Those are two different statements, and you're arguing with the former whereas most people are making the latter.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:14PM (#30850352)

    Having endured through tons of interfaces that required a stylus to properly operate, the iPhone was the first that combined a "finger friendly" environment with sleek hardware and the ability to plug into the apple ecosystem.

    I lived through various early versions of Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Windows Mobile on Palm, blackberry, and Good Technology (exchange connectivity many years ago before Microsoft built it into the product).

    At the time they were all great since that was the best we had. Once iPhone came out, all those other solutions felt like ancient technology.

    A similar phenomenon happened with the iPod. MP3 players were around long before iPod, and they were cool, since that is all we had. Once iPod came out, all prior MP3 players looked clunky and old.

    Apple has a habit of setting the bar for design, and a couple of years later, once everyone else catches up, people think that the state of the art always used to be this way. In reality, many technologies did exist before Apple did their version, but Apple has a way of raising the design standard, and forcing others to raise theirs.

    -ted

  • Re:cloud UI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dupple (1016592) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:24PM (#30850532)
    <quote><p>yeah, the apple hype on this is disgusting. </p></quote>

    There hasn't been any thing said by apple. As soon as they made an announcement that something was going on at the end of January, everyone else start hyping something that no on knows anything about.
  • by NotPeteMcCabe (833508) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @04:54PM (#30851054)

    I've been reading Apple Tablet stories on slashdot for five years

    Why do you keep reading them? It's not like they're secretly given misleading summaries.

    I don't like hockey but I don't go around on NHLBLOG.COM telling everybody to shut up.

  • by Tom (822) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:44PM (#30852080) Homepage Journal

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people think that things like files and folders are too confusing for the novice.

    You've not looked on any novice desktop lately, have you? Most non-techies appear to stuff everything important unto the desktop itself. Doesn't look very much as if they "get" folders.

    A "normal" person can navigate Virgin Megastore but they can't do the same thing with the same content in files and folders?

    A normal person is very well equipped with spatial perception and orientation since it comes with the wetware. File and folder thinking doesn't. It may appear natural to you, but it is an acquired skill.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:19PM (#30852758)

    The booksize computer is the smallest screen that gives you decent megapixel.

    "Decent megapixel," WTF? Do you not know the word "resolution"?

  • by dangitman (862676) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @09:58PM (#30855348)
    Firstly, "megapixel" is a stupid marketing term for resolution. But the way he used the word wasn't even grammatically correct. I don't think it's even technically correct - what does "decent megapixel" mean, that one megapixel is better than another megapixel? "More megapixels" would be a better usage, but still redundant as we already have the word "resolution."

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