Why Apple is ready to make the Tablet PC more than it is.
I want Apple to make a Tablet PC. Why? Because I think they can not only succeed, but be wildly innovattive at the same time. Let's take a look:
Apple's latest trend is "Newer, Better, Smaller" - perfect for the Tablet PC. The New 12" PowerBook with a DVD-Burner. The new G5 that's only 20" tall - don't forget that includes handles - and 19 inches deep and packs more punch than just about any other personal computer. The new iPod, thinner, lighter, and eight times more storage than the original. Apple has the experience in making things small and light.
With the exception of the PowerMac 4400 some time ago, style was always part of Apple. Even when they were making beige boxes, they were distinctive. Now, they've taken another step. Smooth, straight lines, perfect curves are just the beginning. Apple has a knack for comfortable and intuitive designs.
Mac OS X has the power and flexibility to be a tablet OS. Digital Ink practically screams tablet, while the BSD core offers power and control. Using the graphics system to render the interface takes heat (literally, sometimes) off the processor, freeing it for other tasks.
What I Want
The tablet should be no more than three-quarters of an inch thick. With the 12" PowerBook at 1.18 inches, I think it's a reasonable goal. Lose the keyboard, TrackPad, hinge extra casing for the aforementioned, and you should be just about there. Thinner would be nice, but that's reasonable. The smallest Tablet I've found is
Just smaller than a spiral-bound notebook, the tablet should fit comfortably in the hand, briefcase, or book-bag. At 11" x 8.5" it can accommodate a 13" screen if the edges are kept small - and I think Apple can handle it. Having a 12- or 13-inch screen on something as so small is a major advantage, the HP Tablet of a similar form factor sports a 10.4" screen.
Now for some fun. The ports should be along a single side of the tablet. They won't be heavily used while away from the Dock, and this consideration is specifically intended for the cover. The cover should be a snap-on piece that is doubly reversible. Snap it over the front to protect the screen, snap it over the back while using it. Turn it one way and it covers the ports with a longer edge, turn it the other and to ports are accessible even when the screen is protected - perfect for charging, Target Disk mode, and more.
802.11b or g and Bluetooth are essential. Bluetooth makes easily available the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and other peripherals that allow the tablet to be a "real computer" in the office or at home.
Because it's a tablet, it's going to have a base of some kind. That power cable can then be so much more. Incorporate Ethernet, FireWire, and USB into the cable, and you have the perfect dock. Burn CDs, connect digital cameras and access corporate networks or broadband Internet all while charging. The cable should be long and thin to give freedom while tethered. The base could even sport a large hard disk, allowing you to take your important file with you while leaving the home videos you are editing at home.
To get a little fanciful, Apple could go even more portable. Incorporating a 512MB or 1GB drive cache and a 1.8" hard drive, you could conceivably spin the drive down for long periods of time. This skirts the edges of acceptable risk, though, as an unexpected power loss could lose a lot of data. I think it could be done, though, and done well enough to be safe.
Pulling it all back together, you should be looking at a notebook (as in paper) sized computer. Right now a 12" PowerBook is 4.2 pounds with a CD-RW or DVD-R drive. Apple could make two different tablets, one with the drive and one with more battery life. With the PowerBook getting up to five hours of battery life, the CD-free version would likely run for almost double, and probably be lighter.
I think Apple is in a perfect position to enter the tablet market. They have the processor and the operating system. They have the experience and the skill. But, do they want it?