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Monday
Jan042010

iLeaf '10 - Apple Tablet Docs for the Rest of Us?

This is a just riff on ideas from Mike Cane and John Gruber. Gruber, a savvy Mac-watcher has suggested that not only will Apple announce a tablet this month, but that it will be aimed at replacing the Macbook. Mike Cane, a writer and keen observer of e-books has suggested that a new iteration of Apple’s iWork suite could include a tool for making digital “books” for an Apple Tablet or iSlate.

So, let’s play with those ideas. Let’s imagine that, in two years' time, most people who are carrying around a 13-inch Macbook are now packing an iSlate. What’s on (or streaming to) the iSlate? Music, podcasts, movies, TV shows - certainly. Those are all available for free, for purchase or for rental now from the iTunes Music Store. But clearly the iTunes Music Store (soon to be, I bet, just the iStore) will be expanded. It will include books, newspapers, magazines and most interestingly, new kinds of digital documents that take full advantage of the multimedia, wireless and geo-capabilities of an iSlate. Most of those documents will stream to the iSlate, I'd wager, rather than be stored on it.

So, who’ll create those new digital documents? Time and Sports Illustrated have already shown interest and prototypes. So has Conde Nast in general. But, what about the rest of us?

The iTunes Music Store began with label acts. Then the Store introduced the world to podcasts - many created by ordinary folks like us. Those free podcasts now share the iStore with Bono and Radiohead. And how do many of us produce podcasts? Using the iLife product - Garageband. In fact, how do most of us edit the movies, cull the photos and create the documents we use now on the Mac? By firing up iMovie or Final Cut, iPhoto or Pages - all created by Apple as an integral part of the Mac experience.

So, what if Cane and Gruber are right? What if Apple intends not just to release a tablet but rather a Macbook-killing tablet that will need its own productivity suite? What if iLife ’10 will include not the stale-dated iDVD but (let's call it) iLeaf '10.

iLeaf would be a Pages/Keynote/iDVD hybrid that will give the rest of us the ability to create rich, interactive content for the iSlate. We've seen a hint of that in the iTunes Extras and Album Art features in the iStore. What would we do with authoring capabilities like that? What would it do for journalism, including citizen journalism?

Already Keynote, which I love, allows us to create presentations that can include complex animations, transitions and robust typography. Pages, Apple's Word replacement, can already include photos, movies and text boxes.

iLeaf should allow us to really bring Pages documents to life, marrying the best of both it and Keynote and really pushing the Core Audio, Quartz and Core Video capacities of OSX along with whatever GPU goodness the iSlate may have. We already have the ability to create mini-docs on the iPhone via Reel Director. No doubt the almost-certainly custom CPU/GPU chip in the iSlate will have more horsepower than an iPhone. I wonder what it could do?

And, if the imagined iLeaf tool (for the fabled iSlate) does come to be, what format will the files be available in? Maybe ePub for basic documents and some HTML 5-friendly format for more complex content? That would be like creating MP3 files for ordinary podcasts and AAC format for enhanced podcasts with chaptering and graphics in Garageband now, so it has a precident.

HTML 5 is almost certain (i.e. no Flash) as Apple is clearly behind it and the Safari browser supports most of the standard already including video, canvas interaction, drag 'n' drop, offline storage and more. As far as ePub goes, it's becoming a standard but, as Cane points out, it's not without its inconsistencies.

Just speculating here, but the more I think about the fabled iSlate, should it actually be announced, the more I think this kind of game plan makes all the sense in the world. It would be unlike Apple to introduce a tablet if it isn't a total game changer. And, it makes little sense to have a device that serves up a whole new breed of document without empowering its owners to create just that kind of document. That's just not how Apple has done things in the past. So, iLeaf '10? I'm hoping I'll be helping my journalism students make good use of it this time next year.

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Reader Comments (4)

ePub is a botch and not something Apple would use or recommend be used at all.

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