An iSlate Docking Station? A Virtual One Would Be Nice

By  |  Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:41 am

With almost precisely one week to go until the-event-that-everyone-assumes-Apple-will-announce-its-tablet-at, I’m tempted to declare a moratorium on even discussing rumors about the tablet. And I’m instinctively distrustful of rumors reported by TheStreet.com’s Scott Moritz. Among other things, he’s the guy who ran an EXCLUSIVE that Verizon Wireless had decided to pass on Palm’s Pre and wouldn’t be selling it starting in January. Which must have come as startling news to Verizon, which will start selling the Pre this month.

Anyhow, Moritz has another EXCLUSIVE that says that Verizon will be selling the Apple tablet. Let’s just skip over that tidbit (which has been floating around for months) and reflect on another rumor buried in the story:

The Tablet will also include a docking station, according to Northeast Securities’ Kumar. This could be a crucial feature for consumers who harbor an ongoing love affair with keyboards. For those unsatisfied with touchscreen typing, a dock would connect to a keyboard and mouse.

I dunno whether there’s any truth there, which is why this post isn’t called something like Apple Tablet to Feature Docking Station.¬† But even if Steve Jobs strides onstage next Wednesday and never says anything about a docking station, it’s fun to toy with the idea.

Docking stations of the classic 1990s variety are still around, but they feel pretty superfluous: They’re meant to let you plug in a keyboard, a mouse, a printer, Ethernet, a display, and maybe additional storage. But:

  • Bluetooth keyboards and mice don’t need to be plugged into anything;
  • Your printer is probably on your network;
  • In the age of Wi-Fi, you might not care about Ethernet.
  • If you’ve got network-attached storage, you may be able to do without additional local storage;
  • Even display connections are beginning to go wireless. (Yesterday Toshiba announced the Satellite E205, a model sold only at Best Buy that features Intel’s new Wireless Display technology.)

In other words, an Apple tablet wouldn’t really need a docking station to dock: It would just need Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the necessary drivers to connect to other devices. Think of it as a docking station without the docking station.

The tablet–assuming it gets announced next week–certainly will have Wi-Fi, and there’s a good chance it’ll sport Bluetooth. It’s the drivers that are the potential stumbling block: With the iPhone, Apple has yet to provide the software the phone would need to talk to Bluetooth keyboards, for instance. But a tablet is a more computerlike beast than a phone, and would benefit from easier access to the peripherals that computer users take for granted.

Of course, using an external keyboard with a device that sits horizontally (in your lap or on a desk) doesn’t sound like it makes much sense. It would work a lot better if there was some way to make the tablet sit upright–either a built-in stand of some sort, or a stand-alone one.

I make no predictions about whether the tablet will have access of any sort to an external keyboard¬† and other add-ons. Okay, one prediction: It wouldn’t stun me if it didn’t. But if it does, I’ll be pleased–and I bet that other prospective customers who are intrigued but cautious would find such support appealing, too.

 
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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Jake Says:

    The positioning is one of the reasons I always thought the tablet might have a dock. And if you’re going to make a stand to hold it upright, why not add in some functionality?

  2. C.G. Smith Says:

    Haven’t heard this yet, good digging. Like the story and the writing.