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I predict: No Mac Tablet before Summer 2010

In his recent article The Apple Tablet OS & User Experience Mike Rundle speculated on several scenarios regarding which OS and UI to expect from any coming Mac Tablet. It’s an interesting read. Now there are a couple of things that are absent from public discussion which I am trying to shed some light on.

iPhoneOS is actually a branch of MacOS which is basically an open source OS based on BSD plus many Apple-specific additions like the proprietary Window manager. This was said multiple times by Apple employees in passing. Apple is working very actively to reintegrate “learnings” and also iphone custom code they needed to specially create for handling multi-touch back into the MacOS version that’s to come after Snow Leopard. Touch is only one thing, another thing thats still missing from CoreOS is the advanced power saving techniques that make the iPhone work a whole day. An absolutely essential thing if you don’t wont to recharge your tablet every 3 hours.

Then there is the matter of chips. The mobile parts all rely on ARM and even the chip company that was acquired by Apple probably will license ARM cpu designs and build them. Intel seems to just not cut it in terms of battery endurance versus processing power. Intel begs to differ, but Apple seems to have set it’s sights on using ARM as the main platform for all their mobile devices. The current MacOS can only be built for Intel, support for PowerPC has been discontinued for 10.6.

I think what’s happening right now inside Apple is this: They are trying to achieve what Microsoft has abandoned eons ago: a unified CoreOS which can be built for a variety of cpus. One possible reason besides the platform’s age might be to free up manpower to work on ARM being the second possible build platform for CoreOS. Apple might also drive a dual strategy and choose whatever chip platform has the most endurance for the needed performance at the time of manufacture. With a unified OS they could switch CPUs at a whim and thus can get better prices for their CPUs.

This will be also the platform to power the iPad. Apple will not compromise on the technology just to make it compatible with current generation binaries. Though most likely in a future version of XCode you will just have to change the build platform so that you can rebuild your iphone app for the ipad. And in some circumstances you’ll have to rearrange the UI elements and resize static images where used. So I guess a month in lead time should be sufficient for most app developers to get a couple of their apps rebuilt.

It will still be Objective-C though…

The most important question is which strategy would make Apple more money: an open OS for which anyone can write and sell apps. Or the iphone strategy where they make 30% on each sale. Clearly the latter has proven to be an enormous boon for Apple. So why should they change it? It is very likely that iTunes for Macs will get a Mac app store at the same time that a iPad section opens on it because both will you will be able to purchase CoreOS apps (Apple hopes also to sell much more games this way) via iTunes.

Actually I don’t think we will see the iPad shipping at the beginning of 2010 as some sites predict. It might be technically “done” already, but the OS is still missing. If Apple continues their recent pattern then we can expect Mac OS X v10.7 “COREpard” in Summer 2010. That will be the time when we will see the iPhone 4G being released as well as the iPad.

In any case we developers can look forward with anticipation of added profits from additional platforms and being able to sell almost identical content several times: for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac.


Categories: Apple

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