As a tech nerd, Apple fanboy and media historian, I’ve been following the Apple tablet rumors for the past couple of years and fawning over the possibilities every time a new patent is released or news piece pops out and tweaks the whiskers of nerds around the world who then flood news sites, tech blogs and their message boards with their hopes, fears, and sarcastic opposition.

Gizmodos Jesus Diaz concept that he spanks to

Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz' wet dream. On the table, not Bettie Page.

Now, I should stop here and say that I’m not about to out some new evidence, or have some inside source that points to some magical mythical product. My interest purely lies with the responses that people have had and how persistent and attractive this rumor continues to be. Just recently a new set of rumors have come out from Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz about how there might not just be one tablet, but a couple. The persistence of these rumors for about 7 years has taught the fanboys like me to keep the hype at arm’s reach, but yet, I can’t help myself from pouring through whatever the rumor mill spits out.

I have two reasons for wanting this mythical device to exist:

1) To validate that it’s possible to make a tablet computer that doesn’t totally suck.

I’ve used some in relation to work and they’ve been less than impressive: Slow response, weird interaction like HP’s magnetic stylus and brutally short battery lives. Now a major culprit in this is Windows. While I don’t have a lot of love for Microsoft products I have to say that XP was ok as an operating system, it just wasn’t designed with touch in mind. This results in products that don’t take advantage of their inherent tabletiness and end up feeling…Microsofty. In other words, the absence of design is obvious and painful enough to make the whole venture not worth it.

The Panel Fly Comic Reader, different than the Kamikaze reader used for A Contract With God

The Panel Fly Comic Reader, different than the Kamikaze reader used for A Contract With God

The iPhone is a major step in this direction as it’s touch based and the accelerometer takes advantage of being an object in space. And it’s given me the thing that I’ve longed for all these years: the ability to read web content in a comfortable position on the couch. Now, before you shout “laptop” I want to say that there’s a serious difference between having a laptop actually on your lap and reading web articles or the appified version of Will Eisner’s Contract with God like a book. The key phrase being “like a book.” For me, the iPhone was instantly attractive because of the gestures. When I saw people swiping to unlock their iPhones a primal voice went off in my head and screamed WANT. The gestures on the iPhone are quite glorious because they emulate the way we interact with books and scrolls where you page over by swiping from left to right or vice versa or rolling up or down. Most recently, I’ve found myself amazed by the shake to undo typing simply because it draws from the Etch-A-Sketch’s shake to erase. And really, that’s why the iPhone works on a deeper level than other smart phones: it draws from the actions that you’re already familiar with from analog training and presents them in a slick new interface that’s actually fun to use. The Blackberry is a different beast, but the pearl/mouse relationship is quite ingenious, you can pat yourselves on the back RIM. However, take the physical keyboard away….

2) I believe we’re all waiting for Apple to get it right.

Tablet computers have existed for the better part of this decade and the majority of them suck. I said majority since I clearly haven’t tried them all and I’m sure someone other than Bill Gates has enjoyed using them. However, they didn’t go as gangbusters as Bill Gates thought they would way back in 2001 and I’d be willing to bet all my student loan debt that clunky Windows and meh hardware were the problem.

Ive in one of his labs, aka The Emerald City

Ive in one of his labs, in front of the curtain.

While I’m sure that Microsoft has great engineers and the hardware manufacturers have great industrial designers, the combination of them don’t even come close to what Jon Ive brings to Apple and it’s not even fair comparing OS X to any Windows product because of fundamentally different approaches. This is where I show my stripes: I believe that the marriage of hardware and software is critical. Nintendo also gets it and so should you. Now this does not hold true for the upper percentile of nerds who can customize the bejesus out of their OS of choice and stuff computers into anything, like a Millenium Falcon. However, for a tablet device to work and be a game changer, someone has to sit there and make serious design decisions and actually craft the hardware and software from the ground up while looking hard at human behaviour to reduce conceptual hurdles.

I believe the Apple tablet rumors are so persistent because this is THE HARDEST form factor for computers to date because the inherent flaws and if anyone might get close to making it real and stick it’s Jobs, Ive and Apple. Sorry Techcrunch, I know you’ve been working hard, but you’ve never generated the same level of noise and you probably won’t be the defining product that other designers will crib from and that consumers will see as the next evolution of the computer that gets us closer to the fantasy of the less-paper office, reading web content comfortably on a couch or in bed, and being able to carry an English lit degree’s worth of books without breaking your back (Riverside Chaucer, I’m looking at you). And that’s really why I believe the rumors are so persistent and so alluring: the idea that the great and all powerful Apple has something behind the curtain and won’t let us see or even admit to. This tells me that the rumors are as powerful as the device itself may ever be and that Apple holds a far bigger sway over all of us than most people would like to admit. Except possibly for Jesus “spanky” Diaz who publishes his lust regularly.

click here to see Mashable’s collection of mockups

click here to see Gizmodo’s touchscreen tablet contest winner and gallery

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