The Apple Tablet as Digital Mapping Platform

The hype machine surrounding Apple's imminent tablet announcement is in full effect, and I have to admit I'm as excited as the next fan boy about this product. I really hope it's not $1000, as the rumor mills have been reporting, but I still think my wife wouldn't be too happy if I told her I was going to blow even half a G on this thing. I may just have to pitch a tent in the Apple Store across from my office so I can get my hands on this thing at least once a day. But among all the hype about it being a Kindle-killer, or a TV for the 21st century, or a revolution in tactile input, there hasn't been too much talk about what I think it'll be really useful for: maps. And with Apple's acquisition of Placebase back in July of '09, this very well might be a new and important feature of the device.

I recently wrote about the fact that paper maps still have some advantages over electronic maps, one of which is the form factor. It's tough to see the big picture on a 3.5 inch iPhone screen, or even the slightly larger screens of more traditional navigation devices. The rumored 10" screen of the tablet, however, would be a great size for viewing and interacting with digital maps, especially given the device's portability.

Now, granted, I wouldn't use this thing while I'm hiking or cross-country skiing, but it would be great in the car--not so much for the driver but for the passenger-seat navigator. Imagine turn-by-turn directions on a device where you could easily switch from a street-level view to a small-scale birds-eye view and back again. And check your email / surf the web at the same. And then of course when you're on a long trip and you don't need the immediate feedback from the map (you're on an interstate for instance), you can hand your tablet to your kids in the back seat to play games or watch videos. Speaking of games, expect to see some really interesting multi-player games come out for this platform (something you really couldn't do on iPhone).

In any case, if this device is anything like what the rumor mills have been implying, the potential implications for the location & mapping space are huge.

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