Editorial

Why Apple should make an iPad Air

I believe only Apple can pull-off this product design. But I’m not convinced they would want to… would it make business sense?

Apple MacBook AirApple needs to make an iPad Air. By combining the best of both the iPad (touch interface) with the MacBook Air (mobile computing) Apple could very well build my dream product. I suspect it would sell like mad — although these days that would be par for the course for Apple.

What exactly is an iPad Air?

It’s a MacBook Pro with a detachable screen that functions as an iPad when removed.

Yes, we’ve seen similar ideas hit the market, albeit with abysmal results. Lenovo, for example, released a convertible tablet (S10-3t), which was essentially a netbook with a touch screen that could be rotated. In my books it does nothing well, and, despite the best of intentions, is a scatterbrained design.

I believe only Apple can pull-off this product design successfully. But I’m not convinced they would want to… would it make business sense?

Currently if you want the best tablet out there you buy an iPad. It’s great for reading newspapers, magazines, and the apps are mind-boggling inventive and fun.

But, if you want mobile computing, you’d need to buy a MacBook of some kind — because life isn’t all fun and games, and sometimes we need to still type emails, create documents, and write angry letters to Buick management for example.

So Apple sells you: an iPad and a MacBook. Combining the two would result in only one sale.

Still, I can dream. And I believe market forces will result in a new generation of combination laptop/e-reader/touch tablet devices.

Here’s my specs for an iPad Air:

  • 11″ display
  • Under 3 lbs.
  • MacBook Air experience with full-size (backlit please) keyboard, standard ports (USB, SD)
  • Detachable display that doubles as an iPad when removed
  • i5 / i7 processor options (what a dream)
  • 1TB solid state flash hard drive (ok, this is getting out of hand… I will settle for 256GB)
  • Mac OS X with Mac App Store which I predict will provide iPad like Apps based on touch interface
  • 12 hour battery life (full day, no worries)
  • Bonus: built-in iPhone dock that enables the phone to be used as additional input device and/or display relevant system information
  • Price: $899 (like I said I’m dreaming big here)

Sure there are many engineering challenges. For instance, the screen (a removable iPad) would need to have a processor and battery. The two devices would need to run either Mac OS X or iOS. And no doubt cramming all that tech into a slim design would not be easy. But, I say, that’s what rock-star engineers are for! For all I know, they’re probably already running around Cupertino with top-secret mock-ups of my dream device.

What do you think, could Apple make an iPad Air? Is this something we’ll see in 2011? Or should I just continue to dream and buy a Lenovo S10-3t tablet … I mean, seriously, it’s as if the San Francisco Giants might win the World Series or something.

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Clinton Stark
Clint is based in Silicon Valley and co-founded Stark Insider. A new media venture, the goal was to fill the increasing gap in arts and food & wine coverage. This site has consumed his every fiber. Yet, he still has time to talk Android, praise Pebble, and shoot videos. More: Clint's story...
  • Nitnag

    How about Retina display…..didn’t you miss that here.

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      Very good point – a must have on the wish list for an iPad Air!

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  • Guest

    13″-15″ display, please!

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      Interesting – some want portability, and rumor has it a 7″ iPad will hit by holidays?

      Me, I agree though – I want my 13″ MBP to serve also as convertible iPad. The display should pop out and give me all that gesture thrill for reading content… and Tweeting a la Minority Report.

  • http://twitter.com/markwarschauer markwarschauer

    Needs to run OS X *and* iOS (automatically switching when you remove the keyboard :-))

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      I like that thinking! Although I wonder if long-term Apple will streamline everything under a more powerful version of iOS or some new OS that combines both. Whatever it is – I’ll want it no doubt ;-)

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      I like that thinking! Although I wonder if long-term Apple will streamline everything under a more powerful version of iOS or some new OS that combines both. Whatever it is – I’ll want it no doubt ;-)

  • bjh

    The iPad is already pretty close to this with a Bluetooth keyboard, it’s been my full-time portable for months now. It’s my primary web browser, even when I’m working on my Mac, and I do all my personal email through it; Numbers for iPad is the first spreadsheet I’ve found tolerable (Numbers on OS X is miles more usable than excel, but I still don’t like it.) I even use it for controlling my media server via VNC. Not bad for version 1!

    –bjh

    • http://www.starkinsider.com Clinton Stark

      You’re absolutely right – I can only imagine how slick the 2nd or 3rd gen iPad will be.

      I’m interested to hear from iPad users and how they’re getting along using the iPad with an external keyboard. I think it’s an intermediate step towards my vision of an “iPad Air” – if the keyboard was integrated so that it could store in clam shell like a laptop, that would be handy.

      I’d like a real processor (i3/i5). Yes, I’m picky… but I think this might be the one device to rule them all.

      • bjh

        I’ve gone off the idea of one device that “does it all”, in fact the iPad strongly rekindled my interest in the iMac: huge screen and a ton of horsepower these days, combined with the featherlight go-anywhere iPad with battery for days. I’m done with trying to cram my poweruser computing onto a too-small screen, paying for performance compromises and still having something too bulky and heavy to enjoy carrying.

        Some specific points about the external keyboard: I have the Apple BT keyboard and like the key-feel, stiffness and overall design, though it has a tendency to get turned on when rattling around in a backpack (I often flip one of the batteries around to prevent that, and might try to modify it to be better about it). But the integration with the OS is quite good: brightness, volume and media keys all work, eject shows or hides the onscreen keyboard, and tapping a key wakes the iPad *and skips the slide-to-unlock* which makes it feel much more laptop-like.

        However, these days I find the onscreen keyboard so usable, that the BT one just sits in a cupboard for weeks at a time, I only bring it when traveling or otherwise using this as my only machine (these comments, for example, were written on the touchscreen), so I haven’t been motivated to try any of the “keyboard cases” out there. “Just in case” I usually carry the Camera Connection Kit adapters because they’re small and can connect any USB keyboard.

        –bjh

  • Sam

    I would buy one!  I wish it was availiable now!  I agree with your point that Apple is not going to want to combine a possible 2 purchase deal into 1.  The great thing is that other brands will start to offer this technology and force Apple’s hand.  So they have a choice.  Either be the leader and innovator or come late to the game and be the follower!