Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad Accessories - I so called it

Some of you may have seen that Apple announced their new tablet computer - the iPad. I won't rehash the most-covered details about what it is, how it looks, what it can do, blah blah. There are plenty of professional tech bloggers out there that do that. People with more time, people who get paid for this.

No, the only point I wish to make about the iPad tonight is: I totally called it. Announced with the iPad itself were a handful of accessories. These accessories will expand the abilities of the iPad to make it easier to enter text and handle photos.

I seem to recall having some thoughts on this matter back in, oh, 2007. I wanted these accessories for the iPhone - something it seems Apple has pointedly decided not to do yet. Nevertheless, allow me to quote the relevant bits:

The advantage of a dedicated blogging application over [web-based version, such as I'm using now] is that you would have access to the formatting tools I've mentioned above. Instead of composing emails, you are doing something more akin to word processing (a fine distinction, but one I feel is important). The [iPhone-native] blogging application, with its list of old posts and folder of draft new posts, seems a more tuned application.

Now, this is a good start, but it needs one more thing: an easier way to add content. Typing with the on-screen keyboard on the iPhone works, but is 1/3-1/10 the speed of using a real, physical keyboard. The images that you can capture with the iPhone are ok, but a way of getting images from real digital cameras would be nice. There is precedent for this: older iPods had an optional accessory that would allow you to offload images from your camera to the iPod's harddrive via USB.

Combine these two ways of adding content and you get the second portion of making the iPhone the ultimate blogging machine: a keyboard/Dock. When the Palm Pilot was the PDA in the world, there existed a thriving market of third-party accessories. Several companies sold keyboards into which you could dock your palm pilot. Some of these keyboards were real marvels, able to fold in half or quarters, resulting in a footprint the size of the Palm Pilot itself. Something similar could easily be made for the iPhone, and contain the all-important Dock connector. When the iPhone docks with the keyboard, the on-screen keyboard is disabled, allowing you to view the entire iPhone screen while typing. This would be an advantage not only in the blogging application, but anytime you need to type with the iPhone.

Having actual cursor keys and the ability to select text, copy, paste, and so on would be a real advantage. One could even have dedicated hotkeys on the keyboard to take you to the Safari, iPod, Mail, and Phone top-level applications. The real clincher would be to have a USB port on the side, to which you could connect a camera and transfer images to the iPhone.

Ok, perhaps this was not the most original thinking. I'm sure a dozen Apple employees had these notions already sketched up in their IP notebooks before the iPhone was even launched. Even so, it's not like I heard a whole chorus of others clamoring for these things. I totally called it. I still want these for the iPhone, too. Can't be that hard to make it happen, guys.

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