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Despite all the fantastic numbers delivered by Apple when it revealed its latest fiscal quarterly profits this week -- such as an eye-popping 94 percent net profit year-to-year increase -- one question and one rambling answer from Apple CEO Tim Cook made me sit up in my chair. The question: Will Apple create a converged iPad/MacBook with a built-in keyboard? The question came from Tony Sacconaghi, a longtime Apple-watching financial analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein's research division.
I have to agree with the author and disagree with your analysis. In my opinion, convergence will be 'delayed' until the users 'converge'.
To illustrate, I had been speculating about the 'iPad 3' having Siri. I and many of my clients were very excited about having a 'marvelous personal assistant' named Siri. All of us wanted Siri with many of us also hoping for an iPad which could access Verizon and GSM, 'true' 4g connection speeds and of course the Retina display.
Well, we got the Retina display and 'sort of' access to both Verizon and GSM systems. But no 'true' 4g or Siri.
Not having Siri bothered me quite a bit until I read two commentaries which essentially said Siri was not ready for iPad because we interacted with our iPad far differently than we interacted with our cellphone.
The authors noted that people 'always' have their cellphones on or near their person. With Siri we would rarely miss an appointment reminder and could add a new appointment, find an address, locate the nearest Italian restaurant and enter notes verbally just by talking to our cellphone. All this is 'right in their hand'.
Unlike my cellphone, my iPad is often out of sight or reach. It may be tucked in my briefcase, locked in my desk or forgotten at home in the den. In every case, Siri and I are isolated from each other.
If I leave my cellphone at home or even in my office I will most likely go back to get it. If I leave my iPad somewhere, I MAY go back to get it.
Their commentaries convinced me that having my 'marvelous personal assistant' Siri on my iPad would be more annoyance than benefit. Unlike my cellphone there are just too many times it wouldn't be where I was.
The nearest Internet connected computer will in most cases stand in for my iPad in a critical situation.
I realize I will never create a critical presentation on my phone or write a novel on my iPad or consider pulling my MacBook out of my briefcase to to take a call.
Combining the functionality of my phone and my iPad will require someone to envision an entirely new paradigm for me to 'buy into'. It better have a very compelling cost benefit before I take the leap.
Convergence,especially to Apple standards, of these three devices, or even two, is going to be more about changing my behavior and expectations than either software or hardware.
"Apple can and will build a converged device -- basically, we'll get a touchscreen-MacBook-Air sort of computer." - I respectfully disagree.
"The least common denominators are a keyboard that produces real, tactile feedback and is efficient to use ... along with a touchscreen" - I think this is a very 'techie' centric statement.
"such a tweener device and delight almost everyone" - This statement shows why I think you're wrong about this. I think tablets and laptops are closer to the frige/toaster hybrid than they are to the oven/toaster hybrid. This is what apple 'gets', and many techies (including MS?) don't. I've watched many users in my family (and extended family) mess with our iPad. None of them want a keyboard. In fact, a keyboard would keep some of them from using it. No matter how small or unobtrusive. It's not the way the device is used most of the time. A "tweener" device might delight a lot of techies, but we're not that big a market.
Here's what I'll use as evidence. One of the biggest criticisms of the first iPhones was that they didn't have a physical keyboard. The first time I heard about the iPhone, I thought "finally, someone did away with that stupid, worthless keyboard and saved the space/weight." I think Apple hit that nail on the head - the mobile market (even though they're getting more 'like' computers), is different from the computer market. I look at my extended family now, and the way they use their iPhones - they only use the keyboard when the voice recognition misses something in their dictation (for sms, email, etc.). I think 'physical' keyboards were over-rated for mobile phones, and they are for tablets too. From what I see, typical users who just want to write text (sms, email, etc.) will just be dictating to the device anyway.
I think techies will continue to want (need?) both, while Apple will continue to make the thinest, lightest, most user-friendly tablet it can build - which won't include a keyboard.