iSlate, iGuide, iPad, iWhat?

The wait for Apple’s rumored January release of a tablet computer is the most intense anticipation for a product I’ve experienced since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I for one am drooling more than my brother’s Great Dane drools over a platter fresh baked teacakes, which oddly enough is considerable.

No one even knows what the Apple tablet is like, if it’s really what Steve Jobs plans to announce near the end of January, or if indeed it’s even real. No one knows the price, but I know two things: (1) I can’t afford it at any price; (2) I’ll be determined to have it at any price.

Thus, it is mostly with amusement that I read yet another article about why the fabled MacTab will fail. The comments are more illuminating than the article in this case. That’s the first place where I’ve seen the rumor that the iSlateorwhatevertheycallit would be able to dock the iPhone and therefore use the iPhone’s 3G Internet connection. That would be fantastic.

If it doesn’t happen, I’ll still want the tablet. The point of whether it might require a second 3G contract would be worth considering, but I have wifi in my house and in most of the places I go regularly, so I’m good either way.

Article after article keeps popping up asking what this thing could possibly be good for, why anyone would want it, why anyone who already has an iPhone would want something that seems to be just a bigger iPhone. I don’t know anyone who has an iPhone, though, who doesn’t know exactly why they want a tablet computer that is basically just a bigger iPhone. And yes, I’ve extensively researched this by asking at least two friends who have iPhones what they think.

Here’s my answer: ebooks. I’ve held off on buying a Kindle for months because of iTab(?) rumors. I would have certainly bought a Kindle if I didn’t think something better was coming. I have the Kindle app on my phone. I want it to be just a little bigger. I think Apple is going to provide that and more with its tablet version of the ereader. I think ebooks are one of the major motivations for the Apple tablet’s supposed existence. If so, it’s a good time for it. Huge markets are poised to go mostly digital with book purchases, including textbook markets.

Games, videos, web surfing and so many other digital activities are doable on a phone but not comfortable. A bigger version of the iPhone would make for spectacular gaming. There you have another big market.

I use alternately a phone, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, and a netbook. The product I see the iTablet replacing is the netbook. It will be too big to fit in a pocket but much easier to carry in a tote bag than even a full-sized laptop. It will make for easier reading than the netbook. It will be the travel computer, the ebook reader, and the portable gaming device. It will also be a portable movie player and a photo storage device.

I don’t work for Apple, and I have no particular reason to push this product on others. I just can’t resist adding my own speculations to the frenzy.

I want to go digital with books because I have too many books. I love my books too much to let go of them after I’ve read them, but I have limited space for keeping them in my house. Also, I live in a place that does have bookstores, but I frequently order from Amazon because I can’t find what I want here, and online ordering is more convenient than searching the stores anyway. Now that so many hundreds of thousands of titles can be instantly downloaded upon purchase, going digital is a logical step. I haven’t quite done it yet, but I’m ready.

I know I could love a Kindle. I’m just waiting for the Apple version because I believe I’ll love it more.

Goals for the New Year

What is this immense cultural guilt that requires of us all that we basically resolve to get a new life every January 1? Somehow the idea we aren’t good enough the way we are is ingrained in us. I would have blamed the Puritans, but a quick Google says the practice dates back to the Babylonians. I’m sort of glad centuries of self-improvement guilt has gone before us. Maybe we have that to thank for indoor plumbing and cruise control.

Maybe we can always be better. Maybe we really aren’t good enough the way we are. People do tend to be lazy left to their own devices. Once a society reaches the point of cable television and refrigerated beer, excess guilt may even be required to achieve any sort of motivation at all.

Still, the knowledge that this is a generalized cultural guilt that serves some purpose toward the common good doesn’t help much with the individualized guilt. Every year I say I won’t do it. I just won’t participate. I’m not making resolutions I’m bound to break and then feel worse about. Every year I give in. I won’t even talk about what kinds of resolutions I make. They aren’t original. They’re the same as yours.

That’s why I was glad when one of my Facebook friends, Glenda Jones, said she was making goals, not resolutions. Goals I can handle. I make goals I fail to meet every day. There’s nothing special about that. I also make goals I do meet every day. Looking back over the past five years, I’ve probably broken every resolution I’ve made, but I’ve done a lot too. It’s all been okay.

So I’ve resolved this year to set goals, not resolutions. Only it turns out my goals sound a lot like resolutions. Get healthier. Establish better balance between work and family and everything else. Read the right books. Finish projects I’ve started in the past few years. Devote more consistent time to personal writing. Put together a new poetry manuscript. Exercise more. Take more time to relax. Do a better job of managing money. Get my chaotic schedule under control. Keep my house in better order. Scale back on commitments. Ratchet up on productivity. Be a better friend. Cook organic, gourmet meals. Be a better teacher. Learn, learn, learn.

Here’s our problem. The goals are contradictory. Individually, they aren’t bad. As a collection, they’re insane.

New Year’s does that. It makes us insane with the need to improve. Some of us who came to this Babylonian guilt by way of Puritan influences, go a little extra insane with the feeling that we need to be better than we are.

A well-balanced person would look at my list and decide to pick one or two to start with. Let me know how that works out for you.