Apple left much to our imagination with their invitation to next week’s media event, “Come see our latest creation.”

Obviously it is widely rumored that we will see an Apple Tablet (iTablet, iSlate), a new iPhone OS 4.0 and possibly other Mac lineup changes.

I am extremely excited about the possibility of a full-color hand held device and what it could do for the media industry. But in order for me to drop $800 – $1,000 on an Apple Tablet I will need the following features:

  1. A More Robust Operating System
    • The iPhone OS works well for the iPhone, but the same platform could mean too many limitations for a Tablet computer. I primarily see the Apple Tablet leveraging the App Store, iTunes LP, Web access and eReader functionality. However at this price point I would like the ability to run productivity apps and that won’t be realistic on the iPhone OS.
  2. USB Ports (and other Expansion Options)
    • With a full, or slightly scaled, version of Mac OS X the Apple Tablet could provide the functionality and device business travelers and home users need. While multi-touch devices make sense for something that resides in my pocket, an on screen keyboard just does not make sense for productivity apps. That means I need to be able to dock the device and use it as my screen but have the opportunity to plug in a keyboard or mouse. Bluetooth is an option, but limits the use of all the other USB peripherals on the market.
    • The device could be very interesting for the pro and prosumer photographer. Imagine tethering your Digital SLR to the device to immediately archive your photos in iPhoto or Aperture / Lightroom. What about an expansion port for media cards? We already have it on the MacBook, why not here?
  3. Media Standards
    • If the Apple Tablet will primarily be used for media consumption, then I ask that we have some standards. Obviously iTunes will still remain a key cog in the Apple machine. So I imagine full functionality of a large-screen iPod that will allow me to listen to, watch, and interact with movies, music and television content.
    • iTunes LP could become very interesting here. How can the format be used on such a device to further expand your interaction with music and possibly become a social platform? Lets face it, digital media removes the tactile feel of an LP and liner notes. We need to bring that back for the music industry to survive.
    • As an eReader the device will obviously compete with the Kindle and Nook. Full color and motion graphics immediately would give the device a lead in the market. But at the very basic level all of these devices need to serve up PDFs and other basic document formats. So will it be easy to read black and white text on the screen? Will searching, bookmarking and multi-touch provide a much better experience than eInk?
    • For magazines, newspapers and any other form of journalism – this device could be the magical unicorn we are all looking for. Imagine paging through a magazine with up to the minute scores and customized content. Hell, I’d even pay for the customization. That could mean that the industry could find a way to recover the lost readership and revenue that has eroded over the past 10 years. Will this save the industry? It has the potential if a standard format is realized. I do not want to load up multiple applications or branded readers to consume my content.
  4. Multi-input
    • This can become quite complicated, but in short I want the ability to leverage both an onscreen keyboard, potentially a stylus, voice commands and iSight capability. Why?
    • Well an onscreen keyboard will solve the mobility issues. As I mentioned above, the ability to plug in a USB keyboard or mouse will help as well.
    • A stylus could provide the ability for hand-written notes and the creativity that you would expect from an Apple device. Imagine the Apple Tablet becoming a new input device for Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. What about creating a new iLife application that provides Microsoft Courier like functionality with your finger or a stylus? I think it will become an important way that consumers could realize the potential of the device.
    • iSight and Voice Recognition would be a killer combination. If I were able to dictate to the device then I would have less of a need to plug in my keyboard. Video conferencing would be a no-brainer for the business customer and it would complete the device for a consumer who wants to use the Apple Tablet (or iTablet) to complete the connection between his or her personal and digital lives.
  5. Hardware Specs
    • This is pretty simple. The device needs to have a processor that can handle all of the above, full screen video, streaming video, and productivity applications.
    • I will live with an integrated battery if it means a longer battery life. However I must have the ability to expand the memory on the device. If I buy an Apple Tablet at this price point, then I want to have it for awhile.
    • I do not need a wireless provider, but I could see how Apple could benefit from a relationship like they have with AT&T. If they do consider this I hope it is an option and not required. I do not want to be tethered to a service like Verizon or AT&T for content delivery. Obviously you can leverage a wireless connection with the iPod Touch and iPhone – so I don’t expect this exclusivity.
  6. Warmth & Creativity
    • I couldn’t stop at five features, so here is the bonus #6. I would like the device to be warmer and more creative than a Kindle, Nook or iPod. There are rumors of a uni-body design and I think that would be a mistake. I do not want to hold the cold aluminum in my hands and treat it as a book.
    • I mentioned it earlier, but a new iLife application where I could use the device as a diary would be very interesting. The ability to archive my daily life with video, photos and notes would revolutionize our digital lives. All of a sudden Apple could find a way to bring the foundation of Facebook and our social graph back into our own hands.
    • At the very least I’d like to see some sort of Microsoft Courier ability. Can I clip information easily with a finger gesture, or how about grabbing a song and putting it into a message to a friend, or interact with my desktop and folders in a new way to reconnect me with such an inhuman device.
    • Finally, provide us with some warmth. I want skins or covers for the device that allow me to be creative and feel like I am holding something more than a computer. The Nook is a little more friendly than the Kindle. Could the Apple Tablet find a way to be the most friendly and warm digital device we own?

I look forward to the announcement next week. The Apple Tablet could turn out to be just a rumor. I doubt it, but it is possible. But I do know that I will likely be disappointed regardless. The Apple and tech communities have so much hope for this device that it will be hard to meet all of our needs and expectations.

So whatever comes next week, it will likely be ground-breaking but limited.