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Apple's iPad: Welcome to the Revolution

1 - Apple - iPad - Welcome to the Revolution - Cover 2 

On January 18, 2010, Patently Apple began a miniseries titled "Apple: The Tablet Prophecies" that primarily focused on presenting Apple's known tablet-centric patents to the public prior to the tablet's debut.  Yesterday, many of Apple's patents leapt off their dusty pages right into the heart of the iPad, Apple's revolutionary ebook and productivity device. It was a thrilling ride for most who witnessed the features of Apple's iPad unfold before their eyes: Especially those who have faithfully followed Apple's weekly published patents over the years. Some of the patents fulfilled dated back to 2005, while others only weeks ago. This report takes a quick look back at some of the patents that are no doubt directly linked to Apple's iPad while pointing out the fact that Apple's iPad marks the beginning of something much bigger. In my view, we were all witnesses to the birth of the NC Revolution.


Stunning IPS Display  


Who doesn't love surprises - and boy were we treated to some yesterday. Then again, for some of us at least, many of these features leapt off the pages of many an Apple patent. Case in point, Steve Jobs revealed that their revolutionary iPad was adopting IPS display technology which was covered in a recent patent report titled Apple Reveals New Touch Screen Technology for iPhone & MacBook Tablet. Who knew that three weeks after the patent was published that we'd see it implemented on Apple's iPad? Wow.




Bob Mansfield – Senior VP Hardware stated that "When you take the product out of the box and hit the power button, the display immediately comes to life. And I think that our customer experience with that will be – wow – this is really a vibrant display. The backlighting system is LED – and LED is what gives you crispness and color quality in the display itself. Beyond that we use IPS technology. IPS is a premium display technology that gives you not only a great experience looking directly at the device but also off-angle when you're sharing the device with someone else."


Apple's iWork: Pages App with Virtual Keyboard


Phil Schiller – Senior VP Worldwide Product Marketing stated that "The iPhone was a revolution – and we learned so much from it - and developed so many amazing technologies, all the applications, the multi-touch user interface - it was truly an incredible breakthrough product.


We wanted to take all of that and apply that to a whole new class of product. The iPad is the best web surfer experience, the best email experience, the best photo and movie watching experience. It's going to change the way that we do the things we do every day."




Phil Schiller presented highlights of Apple's all new iWork suite of apps for the iPad which includes Keynote, Pages and Numbers.   


The original idea of a word processor (now known as iWork's "Pages") working on a tablet with a virtual keyboard was first presented to us in a 2006 Apple patent numbered 20060026536.  This was presented in part one of our Tablet Prophecies miniseries.


Additionally, the virtual keyboard will also work with the iPad's version of iTunes and once again fulfills yet another patent feature that was illustrated in part one of this miniseries under "virtual controls for tablet based iTunes."  Another patent fulfilled is one covering iPhoto Management on a tablet.


Advanced Map App


In part two of our miniseries we pointed to a possible advanced Map Application for the tablet and Scott Forstall – Senior VP iPhone Software stated in Apple's iPad video that "We've also built an incredible map application on here. It's really fast." There was another interesting feature which involved flipping the map over to reveal a set of data that you control. That was a very interesting idea and Steve Jobs added that iPad offered great map zooming. A few of these map related features could be found in Apple's 2005 patent number PCT/US2005/003599.


5 - MAPS


The iPad eBook Reader – Cool Page Flipping


Another patent feature fulfilled as noted in part one of this series was about ebook page turning. Wow, the iPad's page flipping feature was awesome to see in action. This was a feature I was really hoping for and Apple delivered a knockout punch here. Their real book-page turning effect will surpass any current gesturing convention on the market today and really engage us to try out a new ebook from their hot new book store. All of Apple's competitors must have gone into panic mode when seeing that feature unfold – because it's not going to be easy to duplicate.




The iPad's Dual Docking Station Accessories


One if not both of the new docking station accessories that Steve Jobs introduced during his keynote likely stemmed from a 2007 patent championed by Steve Hotelling and Gus Pabon under application 20070035917. While the iPad's docking station will initially only allow for portrait-mode docking with a keyboard, we bound to see a landscape-mode version debut over the course of this product's life cycle. Apple's patent clearly illustrates the landscape option. It should also be noted that Apple's patent illustrates differing docks for photos and other advanced forms of Tablet applications.


7 - 2007 docking station for Tablets came to life Jan 27, 2010

Was this dock designed for a tablet?  Yes, the patent clearly points to this as follows: "Tablet PCs, electronic books and game players are examples of portable device that are typically operated with two hands. In the case of the tablet PC, for example, the user may grasp the tablet with one hand and make entries in the tablet using the other hand, or alternatively grasp the tablet in both hands and make entries using either or both hands while holding the tablet PC." Further on in the patent Apple states that "In larger handheld computing devices such as Tablet PCs, the inductive coils are generally configured to transmit between about 15-25 Watts of power. One advantage of planar like electronic devices is that larger inductive coils may be used, i.e., spread across the planar surface."


A Superior First Person Based Video Game Experience: You're in the Driver's Seat


Next up: Games. Apple's Scott Forstall had both GameLoft and EA come on stage to show off their superior first person shooter and driving games with an all new experience in mind. This fulfills Apple's patent EP1721236 to a large degree. The 3D aspect of the patent will likely arrive when Apple introduces their new 3D OS.




Will the iPad 3G Include 4 Built-in Antennas?


In part two of this series I pointed to a tablet patent that illustrated a unit having 4 antennas. This will likely take a product tear-down to determine whether or not Apple has employed four antennas in the first iteration of their iPad 3G unit. Until then, we could only speculate that this is to be expected. However, it should be noted that a 2009 FCC document shown in part below, illustrates that Apple's Airport Extreme utilizes a four antenna scheme. Will the iPad 3G employ the same design? Only time will tell.  




Welcome to the NC Revolution 


The iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device, repeated Steve Jobs during his keynote yesterday.  Yes, and more revolutionary than you think.  The main twist behind this thinking was first presented to you in part three of the Tablet Prophecies miniseries. Are we on the cusp of a Network Computer or NC revolution?  


Welcome to the NC Revolution   

This aspect of part three of the miniseries stated the following: "The vast majority of computer users today aren't high-end gamers or engineers requiring every ounce of power that they could find. No, the mass market simply wants a surfing machine for social computing, for iChat, iTunes, QuickTime Movie trailers and basic iLife or iWork type of apps.


Apple's patents, as noted in this series, point to these types of apps working on a future tablet. So in theory, if we have a tablet that docks to an iMac like display for a desktop experience and have a tablet that could add a keyboard accessory to mimic that of a notebook, then you have to wonder if we're not looking at the beginning of a NC revolution that's about to unfold. 


Think about it for a second. The tablet will offer an upgraded iPhone architecture that runs on hardware …. Without Intel inside: Shhhh. And while we're at it, why not stick a fork in Chrome OS as this almighty netbook wonder to-be. Ha! Apple's next wave of products will cut Chrome off at the knees without mercy. What's not to understand here folks? "


Well - This is exactly what unfolded yesterday. We now have iWork available for this revolutionary Network Computer called the iPad – and it uses Apple's advanced silicon, simply known as A4.


Jonathan Ives stated that "The iPad on one hand is clearly way bigger than just a new product. This is a new category. In many ways this defines our vision, our sense of what's next."


Yes, exactly – a new category of products that defines Apple's vision and sense of what's next. That, in my view, defines the very beginning of an Apple led NC revolution.  


Bob Mansfield – Senior VP Hardware, weighed in on the iPad's new silicon by stating that "The reason that this product responds so well, and you really feel the performance of it, is because of the custom silicon that we designed for this product. That silicon is called A4.  And it's really built by our hardware team in concert with our software team. And what that gives you is a level of performance that you can't achieve any other way."


Update:  For the History of Apple's revolutionary new A4 Chip – See Macworld's "The significance of the iPad's A4 chip."


And this is just the beginning. We know that Apple has a notebook-tablet hybrid on the drawing board - as it does for a much larger iMac-sized docking station. This will give their iPad the ability to deliver iWork and iLife apps to a full range of hardware options. Apple will slowly work to get the market comfortable with the NC concept before accelerating their NC agenda. The market has always had a problem with the network computer concept and it'll take a company as innovative as Apple to build confidence in the market so that the concept could gain traction over time.


Scott Forstall – Senior VP iPhone Software is likely the brains behind the iPad in many ways and this is how he described the iPad in part. "We looked at the device and decided, let's redesign it all. Let's redesign, re-imagine and rebuild every single app from the ground up specifically for the iPad.  And with this large a display, you don't get apps that are a little bit better than there smaller counterparts. You get apps that are an order of magnitude more powerful. iPad is the best way to browse the web. For the same reason that it just feels right to hold a book or magazine or newspaper or magazine in your hand as you read them – it just feels right."


When you combine Apple's 3G based iPad that's powered by their own custom A4 silicon that runs a new-for-iPad version of the iWork productivity suite - that could be docked to their new "Keyboard Dock" – you have the foundation for a Network Computer or NC, especially when you add in Apple's MobileMe. Then again, Apple may have created a powerful hybrid system with the iPad. Unlike a pure NC, the iPad can operate and run apps on its own without cloud services. Yet it's not a full blown PC.


Whatever Apple has created or is in the process of creating – seems to represent a revolutionary, yet evolutionary easy-to-use productivity-tool that consumers may decide over time is just the right combination of power, mobility and features that they need to work and have fun with. Maybe the future of computing doesn't need Intel inside. That however, is a little too early to call. 


Let the Revolution Begin


The tablet was long in coming to market and Apple has fulfilled many of their tablet based patent prophecies. Will there be more features to follow? Yes, of course. We outlined many of these features in this series and I'm sure that we'll see many unfold in due course if not see a few hot ones just in time for Santa's sleigh this year.


The ones that I look forward to the most perhaps include Apple's Visual Expander and Floating UI Controls. Some of you were hoping to see Apple's proposed DJ app and hopefully Santa is working out the schedule with Steve Jobs at this very moment on that one. Yet In the bigger picture, we know that Apple will be determined to keep their new exciting iPad sexy: So count on new feature rollouts on a steady basis.


At the end of the day, I was wickedly impressed with the iPad's initial offering and look forward to checking it out at my local Apple Store this spring. The iPad's calendar was stunning to behold and the ease of emailing friends and colleagues with the new virtual keyboard makes this a killer device. It was great to finally see Apple's patents leap to life and look forward to finding the next round of patents on the iPad in the coming year. Way to go Apple!


Let the revolution begin.  



Oh - One More Thing


I was glad to see that Mr. Jobs loved the graphic that we ran for our miniseries that began on January 18, 2010 called Apple: The Tablet Prophecies. 


Apple - The Tablet Prophecies, Cover - Part One b




With such a library of touch patents I find it strange that Apple hasn't tried to enforce them. The exception being the fight with Nokia. My guess is that despite poaching from some competitors Apple doesn't view them as long term competition. Should they start to take serious market share from Apple's products I would expect Apple to move. One has to wonder if they're waiting for some cross licensing patents to appear such that Apple could gain some features patented by others. Waiting could yield more potential value in this case.

Could Apple's patents be venerable should Apple wait too long to enforce them? If not I can see the value in waiting as outright denying their use by others might be a public relations issue. Thanks for the summary. I would have liked a GPS capacity to avoid the need for 3G. I can see it appearing in an iPad model for automobiles. I expect the iPod Touch with a camera should have GPS.

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