The MacTouch/MediaPad/iTablet/iPad/Rumor#3 is fanboy fiction until I see one

election2008.jpg

Apple Knowledge Navigator concept (cir. 1988).
See also, Alan Kay’s Dynabook, 1968.

If you don’t follow the tech blogosophere, first, congratulations, it must be nice to have a life.

Second, even if you don’t follow the tech blogosophere, you’ve still likely heard that Apple is supposed to be launching a new device that’s: 1. A netbook 2. A tablet computer 3. A Kindle-killer 4. A trainwreck-waiting-to happen 5. The greatest thing ever since Apple’s last greatest-thing-ever.

In large part, the rumors swirling around this device have been attributed to “sources” that are “inside Apple” (likely untrue) or someone in their supply chain (likely untrue, but since it’s attributed to someone in China, who knows?). More likely, such mythology springs from the imagination of Apple fanboys in a process similar to the literary faux-genre called fan fiction, described on Wikipedia as, “stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.”

In Apple fanboy fan-fiction, the plot is always the same: New device is rumored. Characters named “The Source” and “Friend O’Mine” and “Person Who Knows” are introduced. Mockups of products (usually, very poorly created in Photoshop) are “discovered.” Supply chain mystery occurs. A big announcement is planned. The device is, or is not, released. If not released, a small group of fan boys are secretly relieved they’ll have six more months of making up stories about “The Source.”

Newton Message Pad, 1998

I’ve already confessed on this blog that when I started writing about such a device in July, 2006, it was complete and utter fan fiction. That first post included some prominent references to a concept device called the Knowledge Navigator that was touted by John Sculley during Steve Jobs exodus from Apple (translation: Steve Jobs hated it). However, as some of the people who were doing the concept thinking on the Knowledge Navigator were also helping to develop the Newton OS and Message Pad (translation: Steve Jobs killed it when he returned to Apple), it doesn’t take a very creative author of fan fiction to connect the dots between a “small screened” PDA and large screened PDA. Once your concept of what a PDA is matures into an iPhone, the same dot connecting should lead you to a large screen touch screen iPhone or iPod Touch.

Of course, most tech writers, bloggers, or media executives try to connect dots in a linear fashion. To them, an Apple tablet device in their imagination is their pre-conceived idea of what a table computer should (our could not) be if you shrunk it down. Or if the new device includes the ability to access a 3GS network, they think it’s an iPhone that won’t fit in your pocket. Those are the people who shouldn’t be writing fan fiction. And those are the people who would last a day at Apple’s advertising agency — the ones who will be responsible for helping cram into consumers’ minds how the device will grow hair on a bald man.

And as I’ve said for three years, it won’t be called a “tablet” or “a computer” or and “iPod” — however, I like a 2007 name from Chris Mesinna, the iPad.

Here’s a confession: It used to be fun to blog about Rumor #3. But now, it’s perhaps the second most boring topic I encounter on the chattering web. The most boring, of course, is Twitter.

So, because I’m sick of the topic, I’m swearing off of it until September when it will be or wont’ be announced.

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  • Well, I actually still find it interesting — though occasionally banal — if only because Apple continually inspires people to imagine out loud “What if Apple did X”… Because of Apple’s success and brilliance in their approach to design, they inspire people to imagine all kinds of interesting things.

    If other companies inspired similar thinking, I think we’d be the better for it.

    As you said, if you think Twitter is boring — it’s because more companies don’t make us sit back in wonder, pondering what magical thing they might come up with next.

  • Thanks for commenting, Chris. You’re right. I keep saying I’m not going to blog about this anymore, but I keep wondering, pondering and imagining what it might be.