Tomorrow, Apple will present their new product. It’s all but certain that it will be a tablet-like device, but all else is speculation.

I’ve been rereading my August 5 post here, detailing what I at the time thought reasonable guesses. A follow-up post had some lovely mock-up images (courtesy of Mario Amaya), which I still consider some of the best so far – pity they got relatively little linkage from elsewhere. Here’s a sample:

where you can see that my hunch at the time was of a folding dual-screen device, each screen having about 7″ diagonal and 1280×720 at 200ppi, 1024×576 at 160 dpi, or even 800×450 at 120 ppi resolution – this depending on the technology used and the price point the device aims at.

I also thought that allowing the screens to fold back-to-back would give us a nice videogame mode, and using it vertically would allow it to be used as my favorite reading device – a mass market paperback. (It would also have the exact dimensions of one of those.)

My main ideas here still stand: the device would be aimed at the ebook, portable videogame, and portable film-viewing markets, with a secondary use of web browsing, email and the usual stuff done on a netbook.

Of the thousands of speculations published elsewhere – I regret not having had the time to bookmark more than a few – a quite well-reasoned one is one by Channeling Design. The conclusions are mostly quite different from my own, though; well worth a read.

In the months since I wrote about this, some interesting new screen technologies and devices have been talked about: AMOLEDs, Mirasol, Skiff, Pixel Qi, and so forth. For an ideal tablet, we should have 200 ppi, color- and video-capable, readable in direct sunlight but with low-power backlighting, touch sensitivity, video camera built in between the screen pixels, and a surface that is both hardened (like Gorilla Glass) and smudge-rejecting. Of course, it should also be extremely thin.

The puzzle is, essentially, which combinations of these properties have been deemed necessary and economical for a generation-1 device. I don’t doubt that Apple (meaning, Steve Jobs) has both the cash and the persuasion ability to buy the entire output of one of those manufacturers for a year or so; perhaps even to convince them to hide the fact that their display has progressed beyond the prototype stage.

Regarding the rest, I have mostly negative reasoning to offer. I don’t think the device will be an iSomething; there’s already too many of those, and none of the proffered names seemed convincing (except iBook, which has been used in the past). A Magic Something would, perhaps, pick up the trend of the Magic Mouse, and signal a departure from the iPod/iPhone/iBook era.

I also don’t think it will be a cellphone – meaning, a device sold and partially subsidized by cellphone companies – the iPhone already fills that niche quite well. It will have a few wireless connections of course, but not all of them, and that won’t be its primary function. I also expect Apple to pitch the device for functions that can be done by iPods, iPhones or MacBook laptops, but it will be at its best doing things that aren’t done well by any of those; reading ebooks is the obvious one here. (As an analogy, consider that when the iPod came out, you already could play music on Mac laptops and desktops with iTunes – it just wasn’t their primary function, nor was it convenient to do so in the context the iPod was aimed at.)

The device will run “OS X” in some new incarnation, but it won’t be the iPhone OS X nor the Mac OS X – though it may, perhaps, run apps for the iPhone in emulation mode.

That’s as far as I care to speculate before the announcement… after all, part of the thrill is actually seeing the magician pull the rabbit out of the hat. icon_wink.gif