Apple's Tablet Mac is a brilliant product, and will absolutely succeed, almost regardless of how it's implemented. Bold statement? Nope. I can prove it...
Every person's view of the world is shaped by the things they do every day. If you write every day, it's hard to imagine a world where a tablet makes sense. Your own occupation will likely color what you think other people do with their time. Many bloggers and especially many in the mainstream media are writers. Naturally, they would think this would fail. Because they might not use it.
When the iPod came out, a number of us artsy folk didn't think it would do well AT ALL. We were WRONG. Because to us, music is just not that important. So obviously, the iPod would fail, because who would spend that much on a musical device? Again, we didn't understand the target demographic.
So let's look at a few of the occupations or interests of different people out there, and how they would be affected by a Tablet Mac. After all, it's difficult to understand the target demographic when you're not the target demographic.
Let's start with the easy ones. People who will not use a Tablet Mac.
What can I say? Gamers will always prefer a joystick over a touch tablet interface. That's not to say there won't be a plethora of games for a Tablet Mac. But it doesn't make a lot of sense to make a first person shooter on a tablet. Why? Well, when you get frustrated and throw your controller on the ground, that'll cost you more than an extra (virtual) life.
Programmers, like writers, tend to be text oriented people. Well, some of them at least. But the growing number of fans of Quartz Composer show that there are people out there who prefer graphically oriented software design software products over their textually oriented parents.
Nevertheless, if programmers see a new platform emerge, they'll embrace it. This is going to happen at some point for the visually oriented demographic.
Writers will probably NOT use a Tablet Mac, at least not for writing. Certainly not as much as someone would whose field requires that they create something other than text.
But text is the domain of the writer. Much more so than the domain of the artist.
While writers do create art, it is so as much visually oriented as it is conceptually oriented. That is, the user has to see what is on the screen, digest it, and decide based on its worth based on what they see, to decide if it's good.
Paragraphs become paintings, scribbles, and such. The thing is, the keyboard is a better avenue for this than the finger or a stylus on its own.
The only parallel to typing found in the 'real world' is writing with a pen or pencil, and that becomes horribly inefficient when you can type much faster.
But that's what writers think the tablet will mean. A return to the cramped hands of yesteryear, or that artsy people will dictate how they have to type.
Every person's view of the world is shaped by the things they do every day. If you write every day, it's hard to imagine a world where a tablet makes sense.
But to many people, a Tablet Mac WOULD make sense.
So here's a list of People who will use a Tablet Mac
Artists will absolutely love a tablet Mac. This is because most of them are visually oriented people. The keyboard and mouse is a crappy replacement for a real brush. That's why things like the Cintiq exist. But we'll call this the no-brainer crowd, and not just because people think we're flighty. No, it's because almost every artist I know of would KILL for a Tablet Mac.
Well here's an easy one. The thing is, the software will conform to the platforms. How many teachers would LOVE to be able to use a touch sensitive screen instead of an entire computer? Ever watch a teacher try to fiddle with the disconnect of keyboard->display->overhead? Well, apps like Conjure are designed to help with that, but they can only do so much. In this case, I suspect teachers, especially those that routinely use an overhead to explain things, would find it far easier to use a Tablet than a keyboard based system, because of the shorter disconnect.
Every coach I know either has or wants a tablet computer of some sort. Why? Because you can't type when you're out on the damned field. For some reason, despite that millions of Americans watch football, basketball, and baseball games every year, we seem to forget that there's a HUGE number of people out there who actually PLAY those games. And their coaches can take advantage of new playbook software like AnimatedPlaybook to help with the coaching. A Tablet Mac would be PERFECT for this crowd.
One more thing here. What part of a school (at least in the US) tends to have the most money? Sports.
If your teacher uses a Tablet Mac, you're going to be inclined to, as well. Especially if it has a camera, and especially if your teacher will share their class notes with you. I used to print out my class notes and take them with me, so I wouldn't have to sit and look at them on my PowerBook. Yes, that dates me. So does your mom. But the problem I had with my PowerBook was that it just wasn't comfortable for READING. It was great when I had to do DATA ENTRY. But not for actually processing things that were already done.
When you're studying, that keyboard just gets in the way. A Tablet Mac would solve this easily.
Now, musicians are one target demographic that so far have been left far out of the loop. Keyboards don't talk to them. Nor do iPods. But a touch sensitive screen would let you do things like create a type of virtual piano keyboard unseen in modern times.
Look at the number of unique iPhone musical instruments! Who knows what opportunities are out there, on Tablet computers, for musicians?
For the most part, you'd think that scientists were primarily text oriented people. That's generally true, for publishing papers. But it's not true for the rest of what they do. If you've ever been in a modern science lab, the computer, with its keyboard, often creates a roadblock. It's hard to type when you have thick rubber gloves on. Granted, it would be hard to use a Tablet computer based on capacitance as well, but maybe pressure sensitive tablet wouldn't be such a bad idea here.
The thing is, the computer is often off on its own, sitting in some unobtrusive part of the room. Why? because it takes up a lot of space. A Tablet computer would take up only as much space as the screen, which would make it a perfect companion for most science equipment.
Duh. No one uses a keyboard in the future. Haven't you ever seen a movie?
The iPod and iPhone have revealed a massive untapped market. There are people out there who find an actual game platform, like a Nintendo DS or PSP to be awkward for the types of games they like to play. These often tend to be visually oriented people. And kids. Don't forget the kids. They love this stuff. The casual game market for a Tablet Mac would be unbelievable.
Yes, business people will use a Tablet Mac. Why? Because with the exception of accounting software, most software tailored to businesses these days rely heavily on the visual aspects of computing. Go take a look at some of the chart apps on SalesForce. It's unreal. Well, a tablet interface would beat the snot out of a screen+keyboard+trackpad any day, for wiring up things in those apps.
And business people bring me to another point...
People who have to fly
I just flew back from Cleveland. Granted, I'm a big guy, but I had to prop my MacBook Pro up in a 'V' shape, so I could drape my hands over the side. Then I had to hunch over it and view my screen at a fairly sharp angle. My MacBook Pro is sexy, but I couldn't help but feel like I was trying to see down her shirt.
If I'd had a Tablet Mac, I could have easily fit the whole screen and everything on that stupid plastic flappy seat table thing. I would have been perfectly happy to grumble occasionally over having to type on a touch sensitive screen, rather than a real one, if it meant I could at least have some comfortable part of my body.
I'm getting to my point now. Just hang around a few paragraphs more.
See, the target demographics for Mac users are (I hate this term) the 'creatives'. They're the artists, the musicians, people who are visually oriented to begin with. To many of them, the keyboard is already a hindrance.
Well, that's exactly the target demographic the Tablet Mac would appeal to.
The Average Person
So. Where does the 'average person' fit in here? Well, again we come back to my original premise. The concept of the 'average person' is often reflected by who you are. And most writers, or at least most of the people who have been saying the Tablet Mac will fail, are writers. Where do they fit in? The people who will not be using a Tablet Mac. Or at least until they have to write something on an airplane.