Days away from the supposed launch of the Apple tablet, we know almost nothing about it. While we can't say for sure which rumours are true, we can definitely say which are - or were - just plain dumb.
Powerbooks Won't Need Keyboards Once They Get Styluses! (2000)
To the writer's credit, this report stays on track for a pretty long time:
According to sources, InkWell will ship alongside Mac OS X, which is currently due to arrive early in 2001; a version may also be available to users of Mac OS 9.
Apple is reportedly working closely with Wacom Inc to ensure InkWell's compatibility with the tablet maker's line of pressure-sensitive input devices.
This turned out to be true, and InkWell is still built into OS X. It's now mostly hidden and close to vestigial, but InkWell integration did happen. Here's what didn't:
In addition, sources said Apple is considering adding pen-input support to the trackpad of Mercury, the company's next-generation PowerBook G4.
"The idea is to eliminate the need for a keyboard," said one source familiar with Apple's plans.
So, a clamshell tablet? A laptoblet? Does the touch area replace the keyboard? Is it even attached? In the years after this was posted, Microsoft (and others) made the concept of laptop-sized touchscreens utterly mundane, and this branch of the speculation tree - the separate, all-inclusive touch input surface - withered and died.
Apple's Tablet Will Finally Link Our Computers, TVs and VCRs, Because Of Ultra-Wide Band Wireless! (2003)
Robert X. Cringely (Mark Stephens, really) starts this column by laying out a reasonable vision for what a tablet device could do, or at least what is should aspire to:
The tablet PC killer app for the mass market is functioning as a digital hub, a general concept both Apple and Microsoft have been pushing for a couple years. It's the idea that your computer ought to control your TV and your stereo and your VCR. The only problem has been that there isn't a good way to link these things all together, and even if we do, that digital hub isn't anywhere near your TV, at least not yet.
This is still a running strain in tablet discussions, and in many ways tablet-ised or not - it feels inevitable. For Rob, though, the stars were aligned for the media hub - i.e. the tablet - all the way back in 2003. The brightest in the constellation? Ultra-wide band networking hardware!:
What's needed is a networking technology optimized for video transport. One has been in the works for sometime, and down at the IEEE, they call it 802.15.3, and this is where I believe Apple sees opportunity... Understand that 802.15.3 is a high data rate Personal Area Network with a range of about 10 meters. This isn't a WiFi competitor. Think of it as a kind of Super Bluetooth, capable of sending video over short distances without interference and with true quality of service, which 802.11 can't provide.
To project that Apple may be interested in UWB wireless for a tablet would have been fine, but to hinge its entire existence on this fledging tech (that still hasn't gone much of anywhere, by the way) doesn't make any sense. And why would you stream media from a tablet, which has battery and connectivity constraints? Why not make something like... the Apple TV.
The Wireless Tablet Without a Battery (2003)
Here's a word-jumble of a tablet rumour from Digitimes, Circa 2003
Apple Computer plans to launch a wireless display for a desktop system, according to sources. The display is said to resemble a Tablet PC in appearance and include a detachable keyboard but not have a battery. Whether it has handwriting recognition or any screen input capability is unclear...The Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported today that Quanta had landed orders for a 15-inch Tablet PC-like device, with shipments to begin in the first quarter of 2004.
A tablet-like wireless display, with a keyboard, without a battery, possibly with screen input. What the hell is this supposed to be? Did a reporter stumble across an iMac for the first time, and decide he'd found a HOT SCOOP?
Digitimes occasionally comes through with a juicy morsel from their component industry connects, but more often their "exclusives" are just buzzy word puzzles, gleaned from the headlines on Techmeme. And this may be their finest work.
A "Mega Platform": Hot for Touchscreens, Apple Kills All Keyboards (2007)
Analyst sees iPhone. Analyst decides to extrapolate all predictions from iPhone. Analysts says ridiculous things:
In a research note issued Tuesday, analyst Ben Reitzes encouraged his clients to look past the minute details of the initial iPhone and focus on the power that lies in the 'unannounced' multi-touch ecosystem that will eventually find its way into several products across the company's product portfolio.
"We believe this 'Mega-Platform' could help Apple become an 'open-ended' growth story once again with a logical chronology of new products for years to come," the analyst wrote...
To be fair, Apple had just pushed touch UI standards forward a few years, so some enthusiasm is forgivable. But touchscreen TVs?:
The UBS analyst said he expects the new platform to become prevalent in each of the consumer electronics maker's major hardware products within 3-5 years, possibly sparking touchscreen Macs later this holiday season or sometime in 2008. Among his expectations are touch-screen iMacs, as well as "tablet-like" notebook devices that provide basic computing without the need for a keyboard or stylus if the user desires to keep the device closed.
"We also expect new touchscreen video iPods, more phones and possibly even TVs in the future," he added. "With regard to the iPhone, we expect Apple to have a full line of phones from $US150 to $US600 available for purchase at multiple retailers in several geographies within three years, just like it did for iPods."
A lot of the general prediction actually came true, but the problem here is with the logic: Apple made one thing with a touchscreen, and it was pretty good; therefore, Apple should make all things with touchscreens.
(In case you're wondering where the horrific alien club fingers came from.)
The Tablet That Lives in a Lobotomised iMac (2008)
Because all Apple patents turn into actual products 100 per cent of the time, the Apple tablet must have a dock, or something:
Meet the flagship of Apple's recent flurry of patent activity, a product some have been predicting Apple would release for years: the Mac tablet. This slate-format tablet is as portable as a MacBook Air, but with a twist: It also docks into an iMac for regular desktop work.
But not just any iMac. This is a very stupid iMac:
This may seem mundane at first, but don't count on Apple leaving this as a simple, dumb display, with a relatively underfeatured tablet shouldering all of workload. Tucked inside this custom iMac you'll find a larger, secondary hard drive (for extra storage or automatic backups), a beefed-up graphics chip, or even an extra processor, giving the tablet a power boost befitting a workstation.
It's clear that Maclife cherry-picked Apple patents the synthesise this particular rumour, and almost everyone who's written anything about the tablet is guilty of a little dream projection. The problem here, though, is that the dream is very, very dumb. Oh, and Apple already tried it, rather miserably, in 1992.