Dream Machine

Posted: December 18, 2008 in Computing

Laptops and portability are huge right now. Someone recently said that they don’t travel without their laptop, but they don’t leave the room without their iPhone. This is true for so many of us. Convenience and portability, this is what the iPhone is, the only thing missing is horsepower (well there are a few other things missing, but computing power is the big thing). Laptops give up some of that convenience and portability for power (and desktops give up all the portability for power).

Justin and I have this habit at the office when one of us has an interesting idea. We take that idea and evolve it, bouncing off each other until we get to this equilibrium. This happens a lot with features and brainstorming, but occasionally we do this for ideas or products out of our control. There was talk about a new Mac Mini that will probably be introduced next month, and although the Mini has it’s place, we started talking about what kind of machine Apple should really build.

What we need is a device that fits between iPod and laptop. An iPod/iPhone is just a little too annoying to do real surfing or watch a lot of media on, but a laptop just never seems to have enough juice to run for more than a few hours. This in-between device is totally within Apple’s capability (and more to the point it fits in their “world”). Our dream is this:

Imagine a large iPod touch, something like a 9” screen running a processor maybe twice what the current iPod uses, all the same capabilities as the current iPod, but adding in bluetooth support. Sell this device for around $499. This is more than just a big iPod, it’s like a stripped down tablet PC with a long battery life. Now we have a device that probably sounds a little useless, we’ve given up convenience and portability, and we don’t really gain any more power. Sure it would be nicer to surf the web and watch TV on such a device, but not a killer device at all.

The second part of this equation is the Mac OS. We already have the capability to do screen sharing (and multi-user). What if we took the next step and allowed this “big” iPod device to connect to a Mac computer for screen-sharing over wi-fi or WAN. Now we have our power, as a master/slave set up we have access to all the computing power we need, we also have access to mass storage and an optical drive. Of course we have to add the ability to do on-the-fly DVD transcoding (you know that h.234 encoder that they’ve thown in the newer Macs) so we can actually get movies to our “big” iPod.

The only thing that would really suffer would be text input, which we’ve already solved because our device has bluetooth (so we could use a mouse and keyboard if we wanted), but more than likely you’d just use an onscreen keyboard. Of course we’d want multiple “big” iPods to connect to a single desktop machine in a multi-user mode so a family could get one computer and share it with everyone in the household.

Granted, this device is a limited machine outside of your wifi network with your home computer (but because it has bluetooth, it will pair with your iPhone and allow access to the 3G network), even over 3G or the internet it could do quite a bit (opening and saving documents, etc.)

This is the perfect machine for so many people out there (I’d buy one). The technology is here, it’s not a leap, but just a step.

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