Predictions on the Apple Tablet/Netbook

Here I am, on a nice Samsung NC10, according to a personal survey one of the most popular netbooks these days (every single netbook at dotMobi is an NC10!). I really wanted an Apple netbook, but it’s not coming and Apple seems reluctant to release one or at least according to their public announcements, the last one just a few weeks ago.

My own take on this is that they are still not happy with what they have and certainly they have no plans to compete with the 200-300 USD products such as the Dell Mini 9 (AMAZING price for a whole laptop).

If I look at the general Apple trends and the technologies they rolled out in the last year or two, I have a list of features that I think they will (or would) include in a netbook if they ever released.

Let’s start from the display which of course determines the overall size and is often identified as the main battery-eater. In line with the latest Apple products, it should be an LED monitor and should be 10 or at most 11 inches. Smaller than that you should use an iPhone, bigger you should buy a 13″ MacBook or MacBook Air. I am not going into the reasons why you would want a 10″ laptop, I’m using it just now and I know a lot of users that are happy with this size. Even though admittedly very small, it is VERY portable.

The hard disk will not be there or rather, it will be SSD memory. The MacBook Air had it since launch and even if expensive it has a number of advantages such as that it’s not a movable part (very important in an ultra-portable), uses less battery, weights less. Apple has already leveraged the technology and know exactly how to use it and what the downsides might be. The Dell Mini 9 has a ridiculous 4GB SSD, Apple should do something better, the Air has 128GB, for a netbook 80 or 100 might be enough even though these days space is never enough.

Now think about the experience Apple has with engineering design, casing of the new 17″ MacBookPros and the MacBook Air, you can expect that it will be VERY light and very thin. I doubt it can be much thinner than the Air, so I would expect it in the range or 1.8cm in the thickest point and the weight should be around 1.2kg VERY attractive.

The small details: no ethernet, wifi 802.11n, bluetooth, 1 USB. Pretty much like the Air.

I think the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix has an interesting UI, clearly optimised for such a small laptop with limited resources. I would not be surprised if Apple came with a version of OS X optimised for these power CPUs and small screens. It would be slick as usual, simple and effective, as Apple has got us used to. Could be touch screen, but I think it will not be, if you want tactile feedback it needs to be thicker than what you can get with an LED display and they will want to be able to say it’s the lightest and thinnest of all. I would expect a comfortable keyboard, or at least as much as it can get in such a device. I repeat, a comfortable keyboard and this should rule out a large multitouch trackpad that also acts as a keyboard, users still need tactile feedback while typing (did I mention how impressed I am by the NC10 keyboard?).

If you factor in all these specs, add the Apple premium price, it is going to be in the price range of 1000 USD (or Euro as they are pretty much the same at least in Apple’s mind). It’s a high price for a netbook, but Sony has already done that, they paved the way, consumers will not be so surprised by the price and I can see them queuing to get one. 1000 is still a reasonable price for a computer, do you remember how much we used to pay for laptops 2 years ago?

Safari 4 like Chrome lets you kill unresponsive windows?

The other day I had some background process taking up a lot of CPU while synchronising some data. I knew it would be slow and so I decide to read some news on the web. One of the pages I opened had some flash in it and after a few seconds a popup appeared asking if I wanted to kill that window. I assume that the background processes PLUS the greedy Flash player were making everything too slow.

It is interesting though that this is clearly a feature that appeared first in Chrome and apparently has propagated to Safari. A good feature, of course!

SecurityFocus on mobile devices for the first time?

SecurityFocus Newsletter #485 is I think the first issue of the newsletter where mobile devices are listed. 2 issues have been reported one about the iPod Touch and iPhone and the other about the Nokia 6131, both are vulnerable to remote attacks on the browser.

The interest for security on mobile browsers is yet another proof that mobile is about to take over the rest of connected-electronics.


4. Nokia 6131 Multiple Vulnerabilities
BugTraq ID: 30716
Remote: Yes
Last Updated: 2009-01-05
Relevant URL: http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/30716
Summary:
Nokia 6131 is prone to multiple vulnerabilities.

The device is affected by URI-spoofing and denial-of-service issues.

Remote attackers may spoof the source URI of a site to direct users to a malicious location and trigger crashes in an affected device.


23. Apple iPhone and iPod Touch Prior to Version 2.0 Multiple Remote Vulnerabilities
BugTraq ID: 30186
Remote: Yes
Last Updated: 2009-01-05
Relevant URL: http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/30186
Summary:
Apple iPhone and iPod touch are prone to multiple remote vulnerabilities:

1. A vulnerability that may allow users to spoof websites.
2. An information-disclosure vulnerability.
3. A buffer-overflow vulnerability.
4. Two memory-corruption vulnerabilities.

Successfully exploiting these issues may allow attackers to execute arbitrary code, crash the affected application, obtain sensitive information, or direct unsuspecting victims to a spoofed site; other attacks are also possible.

These issues affect iPhone 1.0 through 1.1.4 and iPod touch 1.1 through 1.1.4.

Apple Safari to support WML?

I was checking the latest changes of the webKit nightly to see if it’s worth updating my current nightly (about 1 month old) to something fresher. While looking at the timeline I noticed how a few commits have been made in the last few days to implement WML card, timer and do tags, some WMLScript and so on. BIG SURPRISE!

You can see for example a few changesets such as [38816], [38833], [38838] and a couple of bugs, #22522 and #22550.

I am definitely among those that think that WML is dead and that everything should be in XHTML by now and surely Apple as a company has been promoting the iPhone and the iPod touch as “full web” devices and in fact Safari Mobile does not even support HTML-MP. The addition of WML seems very strange to me.

OK, the main committer is not an Apple employee, but rather a KDE developer (Nikolas Zimmermann), but we all know that webKit is mostly controlled by Apple and if they are working on WML it means there is some interest. If they are working on WML, why not XHTML-MP?

We’ll see. I’ll keep an eye on this and definitely test a recent nightly!

Everyone wants an App Store these days

Apple has changed the world with the iPhone. Developers (and users sometimes) complained there were no open APIs to build native applications. Apple noted the request and changed the world again with the App Store.

Everyone in the mobile space seems to be running now to create his own store. Google has launched its store called Market (also see a short review with some nice screenshots) and while at this time it’s all free, it is going commercial next year.

RIM has its own BlackBerry Application StoreFront.

T-Mobile, who is already benefiting from Google’s Market, is going to create its own based on Apple’s experience.

Now Orange comes with Orange Downloads.

There are probably more that haven’t announced it, or simply I haven’t heard of.

BUT, did any of these guys ever think that the great thing about Apple’s App Store is that it is one place and there’s no fragmentation? How are these guys going to cope with this? Replicating and renaming won’t solve those issues. They will all be just like the existing “Decks” or portals, simply on a pre-installed application. That will not make them win.