Some good comments to my last, flippant post deserve an in-depth response.
I write. I'm a writer. That's the kind of content I create. I've been a professional writer since 1970. My favorite interface is a typewriter. I have often been very disappointed by keyboards. I think they were better in the 1980s than they are now.
I consider writing to be at the heart of all creation, even movies. And the tools for writing I see on tablets sucks. I have no idea why this stuff seems to go backward more than it goes forward.
I had a therapist 10 years ago who was using a tablet, with a stylus, to take her notes. The keyboard folded behind the tablet. I liked that.
But enough about me. Let's talk about computers.
The history of the PC is a history of interfaces. Steve Jobs has been at the heart of it.
The standard PC interface of a screen for output, and a typewriter for input, first hit the mass market with the Apple II. Earlier machines like the MITS Altair used tapes and lights, which couldn't scale.
There have been enhancements over the years, but they were nearly all peripheral. Floppy and hard drives were peripherals. Printers were peripherals. Mice were peripherals. The heart of the experience remained the same into this decade - input through a typewriter and output through a screen.
To save money, the typewriter became vestigial. The old IBM PC keyboard, in the early 1980s, made a satisfying clink sound when you typed a letter, something you could feel as well as hear. The Radio Shack Model 100 had a typewriter with good key travel. But these cost money to make, and gradually cost became more important than function. On my present laptop I use a second keyboard, and I notice that when forced by travel or circumstance to use the laptop's keyboard my productivity goes down.
The iPad's main innovation is to eliminate the keyboard. The same screen used for output is used for input. All you have are the screen and support circuits. The basic unit can become very thin and very light while remaining both fast and cheap.
The keyboard remains a big problem for me. The unit has a command that brings up a keyboard on half the screen, but that's a flat keyboard. You're pounding your main unit, you get no travel, you lose half the screen. It does seem that Apple is trying to limit the use of peripherals, at least for now, which motivated yesterday's post.
It should be simple to use a battery-powered, wireless keyboard with the iPad 2. The main unit can set up horizontally, at an angle, like a desktop monitor. We've had plastic keyboards for years that would fold into a very small form factor (I had one years ago for a Palm) and offered satisfactory key travel. They don't need much in the way of interface speed.
But Apple doesn't seem to be going down that road. What they're looking at instead are high-speed camera interfaces for input. Fine if you're making a music video, but not fine if you're creating a story.
This is a problem I do expect Apple to fix in time. It could use Thunderbolt. It could use Near Field. It could sell keyboard peripherals with enough software and memory in them so as to use only a portion of the Near Field signal so the typist could see their work, then save the result to the iPad when the file is done. I personally like the look of this Clamcase.
There should be an opportunity here for add-ons, but the real news with the iPad 2 is that Apple doesn't want to build an ecosystem like that. It wants all the money and power for itself.
So I won't be getting one any time soon. You guys have fun. I'm a writer.