The Macalope Weekly: Natural-born Category Fillers

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It's all over! Yes, woe is the Apple fan! This will long be remembered as the week the iPhone-killing Google phone and the iTablet/iSlate/iGuide/iWhatever-killing Microsoft slate computer were announced!


On Earth 697a, of course.

Here on our Earth, both Apple product-killers were modest devices that failed to stand out in any particular way. Who saw that coming?

You can't say "Philip K. Dick" on the Internet!

After months of breathless reporting about Google releasing an iPhone killer, the company revealed the Nexus One this week.

Aside from the questionable marketing choice of naming your phone after a line of androids that went on to kill its creator, the Nexus One is nothing that's going to reshape the smartphone market on its own.

Frankly, Google, the Macalope is quite put out that you've put him in the uncomfortable position of being forced to agree with Microsoft's Robbie Bach:

Robbie Bach, the President of [Microsoft]'s entertainment and devices division, said that so long as Google makes its own handsets, such as the new Nexus One, other phone manufacturers would hesitate to work with the Android mobile software platform because they would fear that they would never be a top priority for the search company.

At the same time, what else are they going to do? Make Windows Mobile devices? Ha-ha! Right.

Don't get the Macalope wrong. The Nexus One seems like a nice enough phone, but it's nothing revolutionary (it's got a trackball, for God's sake). Everyone is still operating inside the same box that Apple defined three years ago. Wake the Macalope when someone figures out how to do the same thing for a fraction of the price or invents a new box.

Groundhog day

In the lead-up to its CES keynote, Microsoft was rumored to be revealing a tablet device that would cause Steve Jobs to lay down and, in a gesture of his submission to Steve Ballmer, allow him to rub his belly.

Long story short, that didn't happen. (Surprise!)

Instead, Ballmer introduced an unremarkable "slate" computer from HP running Windows 7 in a keynote Engadget called "Incredibly boring. Incredibly incredibly boring. Really."

John Gruber thinks they named it a slate assuming Apple really is going to name its tablet the iSlate. The Macalope certainly wouldn't put it past them, but he thinks it might just be because Microsoft has introduced tablet computing before.

Twice, really. So this isn't "tablet" computing, it's "slate" computing. Which is totally different. Like, not even comparable. Psh. Pwah. Pff. C'mon. Completely different. [Eye roll]

One does wonder what Courier--Microsoft's next-generation tablet computing experience--will be when it gets introduced? They've already used up surface, tablet and slate. They're running out of flat things.

And how about that mixed message? Microsoft introduced a tablet technology this week that's not the next-generation tablet technology they've already revealed. Way to inspire confidence in your customers and partners! Not that Microsoft would ever pull the rug out from anyone.

Microsoft's tablet "strategy" is like an Escher painting, full of staircases leading in every direction that all ultimately just go round in circles. The company so badly wants to be Prometheus, bringing fire to the mortals. Instead it's like some drunk dude flicking matches at us.

Sorry, the horny one like both those metaphors too much to cut one of them.

Step right up! Guess your tablet features or win some crap!

Enough about posers. Let's get back to the not-yet-real-deal we love to speculate about. Assuming Apple's laying it on us on the 27th, we've got just over two weeks to get all of our wild guessing in. Is it irresponsible to wildly guess? No! It is irresponsible not to! Here are some of the guesses the Macalope likes.

Chris Breen (aka "The Bouffant of Knowledge") suggests that Apple's purchase of mobile ad firm Quattro Wireless might mean that Apple's going to tell content producers "You bring the content, we'll supply the ads." The only fly in this ointment the Macalope sees is timing. Apple just bought Quattro and a launch in three weeks doesn't leave much time to sort out the kinks.

Jim Dalrymple suggests the tablet will come in a Wi-Fi-only version and a Wi-Fi and 3G version. This makes sense but the Macalope suspects Jim misspoke when he said "AT&T's 3G data network." This is the data network that's too fragile to handle tethering. If the tablet does come with 3G, it won't be through AT&T.

Further afield, Neven Mrgan hopes the tablet doesn't just allow giants like the New York Times to publish to the device, but brings publishing to "the rest of us." Great idea. And on the latest edition of MacBreak Weekly, Alex Lindsay ran with the iGuide rumor and suggested a tablet feature that would be like a help system on the go. Baking a cake? Prop your tablet up in the kitchen and watch a video from Paula Deen (the Macalope suggests the tablet's screen be not only oleophobic, but also butterphobic). Working on your motorcycle? Prop the tablet up in your garage and watch a video from Paul Teutul Sr. and Jr. (and promptly get beaten up by some real bikers, tablet nerd).

Remember, it's less the specs and more the ecosystem that will determine whether or not the tablet will be a success. The ecosystem failed the Apple TV. The Macalope's betting Apple won't let that happen this time.

This story, "The Macalope Weekly: Natural-born Category Fillers" was originally published by Macworld.

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