What OS Will Apple’s Tablet Run? iTunes, Anyone?

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So I’m in Seattle last week and I’m having a few drinks with an old co-worker from TechCrunch, Devin Coldewey, and we’re casually chit chatting about gadgets and tech. The conversation goes from 3D filmmaking since we’re talking about how cool Avatar is and then the subject of Apple’s tablet comes up. I steer the conversation from “Will Apple actually put it out next year?” to what OS the device will run. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and something no one seems to have discussed publicly. Maybe someone has but I haven’t seen anything. My theory is that it can’t possibly run iPhone OS because everything will look like crap if it’s scaled up. Graphics aside, I just don’t think it could possibly work. But part of me thinks that it has to have apps. Maybe. Maybe not. What apps – especially the popular kind – will benefit the user with a bigger screen? Do I really need to run Shazam on a 10-inch screen? I can’t possibly game on a such a large device comfortably. Safari? Absolutely but what else? Maps? Eh. Calendar? No thanks.

(More on Techland: Apple Tablet To Be Announced In February, Says Analyst)

The device has to be connected to the Internet at all times. It will more than likely have Safari but little else will be ported over from iPhone OS. Previous rumors have pegged the device as a multimedia-centric doodad: movies/tv and music. Makes perfect sense. Will it revolutionize the music industry again? Doubt it.

Project “Cocktail” entails album art, liner notes and the like but do you really need to see those sorts of things on a tablet? I sure don’t. But it’s added value and it would work with a larger screen.

And then the rumors of Apple TV subscriptions lend a bit of creedence towards the entertainment side of things. It actually makes more sense for such services to be on a tablet than the Apple TV. Everything will eventually funnel through the cloud. I hate watching movies, TV shows, music videos, and YouTube on my iPhone. My eyes are bad enough and I don’t need to be hunched over and squinting at a 3.5-inch screen.

The chances of it running a lite version of OS X are pretty slim. What good with that do? If anything, the iPhone OS is more of a lite version of OS X anyway. It’s limited, yes, and actually doesn’t do anything you’d expect a computer to do, but it is a mobile computing device. Browser? Check. E-mail? Check. Apps will obviously replace tradtional programs as we know them and in some respects they already have. At least on the iPhone. For example, Photoshop-like apps already exist in the App Store. But then the notion that the App Store will not run on the tablet get thrown out the window. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around how that will work out yet. It might not even need to run apps.

So what OS will the tablet run? I don’t claim this to be my own, but I’d like to think that I helped cultivate it. Devin believes the tablet will run some sort of iTunes OS (every conclusion beyond the concept of an iTunes OS is my own). Ding ding ding. Apple clearly wants to keep their connection to the music industry, so “Cocktail” is feasible with an iTunes OS. Apple’s acquisition of Lala makes even more sense under these circumstances. TV subscriptions are going to run through iTunes anyway. It is, after all, the glue that connects every Mac platform.

The App Store doesn’t need to exist on the tablet because that would simply take away from the iPhone and iPod Touch. Do you really think that Apple would put out a device that directly competes with its own products? The Touch already has a hard enough time competing with the iPhone as is.

For better or worse, the publishing industry is tablet ready too. You won’t be running subscriptions through the App Store. Will it update automatically like the Kindle? More than likely.

Apple creates new product categories or simply innovates on basic models that already exist in some capacity. An iTunes specific tablet would differentiate itself from the rest of Apple’s product line and it would work. Digital downloads will eventually supplant physical media and the tablet would be the catalyst to put it over the edge. All roads lead to an iTunes-like OS.

Maybe I’m crazy. I’m just throwing this out there. Thoughts?