Sources in the Asian component supply chain and others close to Cupertino have revealed to the Register that Apple intends to follow up its global fondle-slab dominance by introducing new and groundbreaking products intended to eliminate the flaws inherent in the slablet form factor.
"It all makes sense when you think about it," whispers one insider familiar with the munchfruit-branded, secretive company's closely held plans.
"The iPad, the iPhone, the iPad Mini - these are great products. But they have their flaws: and Apple is going to fix those problems."
Those flaws will of course be all too familiar to the millions of fanboiyim around the world who daily fondle their slabs or stroke their bones.
"First up, holding it in one hand while you work the interface with the other, that basically sucks," said our source. "People will put up with it in a 'I'm in the street making a call' kind of scenario, or maybe laying on the chaise longue, but what if they're sitting at a desk or a table? Research shows that target-demographic consumers and enterprise personnel spend huge amounts of time in this type of environment."
Indeed, it's public knowledge that using a fondleslab-style device at a desk is likely to lead to neck and shoulder problems. Apparently, secret experiments in Cupertino's labs have looked into putting enlarged iPads up on raised stands for a better user experience, but these were a failure.
"Three things came out of those trials," says our source.
"First: you've now got to reach up to get at the touchscreen, which gives you another set of aches and pains. Second: You're getting smeary finger tracks all over the display.
"But that wasn't the real kicker. The factor which killed off the stand and arm projects was simple. If you go that route, people are only going to buy one or maybe two devices. They'll wind up carrying a piece of hardware about and using it for more than one thing in more than one situation.
"And that's against everything that Apple stands for. The Jobsian legacy calls for a new product thrust into every niche in your life."
The engineers went back to work, and swiftly came up with a new concept in which part of the touchscreen would be positioned near-vertically in front of the user and another, used primarily for text entry, lay near the edge of the desk. In some prototypes the two units were joined together, in others they have been separated.
"But it still wasn't right," reveals our source. "You've probably noticed that touchscreen text entry is, basically, crap. And reaching up to manipulate apps by touching the screen with fingers was still a major issue ergonomics-wise."
Here the design wizards of Cupertino initially intended to take an idea from the ancient world, when documents were inscribed by chiselling script into slabs of stone. An intuitive electronic chisel was devised, activated by rapping its top with a sleekly designed mallet attachment ("think like Wii controller with nunchuk, but Apple style, you know?" says our source. "It was beautiful").
Unfortunately it turned out that certain Chinese firms held rights to the names iChisel and iHammer, so the new interface device was scrapped in an effort to hold down Cupertino's spiralling legal expenses.
Other obvious yet brilliant ploys weren't considered ready for market. An intuitive one-button keyboard, haptic chair-mounted vibro feedback pads for seat-of-the-pants brainstorming and Siri-controlled cursor manipulation are all still under development.
"Then it hit us," says our source. "The text-entry touchscreen could use a different kind of technology to the other one - and the main display panel didn't really need to be a touchscreen at all."
The new interface panel device, according to our source, "does for touch interaction by human fingers what the Retina display did for viewing by human eyes ... it resolves touches at the natural resolution of the average human fingertip and delivers haptic feedback in the third dimension localised at the point of touch. And we've optimised its display output capabilities precisely to the task".
Cursor manipulation will, we learn, leave all the problems of the touchscreen behind it. Our source remained coy as to the actual details, but he did make this cryptic revelation:
"The human hand is capable of sub-millimetre precision, especially resting on a solid support. Our new input device 'takes the task away from the screen' and presents it where the hand is most comfortable. Think of it! No more fat fingers stopping you seeing what you're doing, and smearing up the display! It's quite literally the way computing always should have been."
Various concept names are believed to be circulating internally at a Apple for the new twin-panel devices and their interfaces. The fondle-slab form factor, it would seem, may soon be rendered irrelevant by the radical new FingerJoy™, iDigit™, FondleLump™ and DontTouchMeThere™ technologies now brewing in the Cupertino labs. There may be portable, wireless "Air" devices as well as larger variants for static use, we gather.
As to software, our source added that Apple was aiming to showcase its new, refreshed and highly desirable OSX version in its new generation of post-iPad3 kit, expected to be formally announced this year.
"It's an extra value add for the customer, a little thing we actually learned from Microsoft about how to shift some more stuff when nobody thought you feasibly could or even should," he said. "The message is, you want this not just because it's new and dazzling hardware, but also because it isn't running Lion." ®
Some people didn't believe our world exclusive predicting the iPad Mini back in early 2010 when the first iPad came out - and yet now everyone is reporting on it. Just bear that in mind before you dismiss this as baseless speculation.