Somewhere on a secret test track in Germany, Apple engineers are putting the final touches on an application that didn't make it to yesterday's iPad launch. Rumor has it that Jobs was uncharacteristically restrained from pressuring the team to deliver the project, code named Colossus for the main stage presentation. Charles Forbin Jr. who heads the Colossus team is part of Job's trusted inner circle and a good friend of Bradley Wiggins.
This rendering leaves little doubt that Apple is about to dramatically change the landscape (or portrait) of cycle computers; its a frontal assault on Garmin, who Jobs has been annoyed at ever since his Garmin eTrex malfunctioned during a lunch hour hike to Hidden Villa.
Details are starting to emerge about Colossus and at least two pro teams have been seeded demo versions of the iPad and Colossus in recent weeks. Sky is reportedly one of those teams. With the iPad's public debut, expect to see the test unit on Wiggins Pinarello very soon.
Wind tunnel testing has shown that the low profile iPad has impressive drag numbers despite its size. Deda has fabricated several prototype stems with a revolutionary vacuum mount that channels low pressure behind the headtube via a specially ported fork. Amazingly the vacuum is strong enough to secure the unit on the worst pave Belgium has to offer. Perhaps we'll see it make it's first race appearance at Paris Roubaix if it passes the UCI's technical review.
So here's the lineup of features slated for a release late March. As the world's largest bike computer by a factor of 20x, the iPad's 1024 x 768 pixels can display an astounding amount of data. In other words why wait to analyze ride data until after your ride, when you can do it all, "so simply and easily on the iPad" while you are riding. All the basics are covered: speed, distance, time, vertical speed, vertical distance, grade, and power of course. Colossus goes much further, leveraging the iPads accelerometers to provide critical data about acceleration and deceleration vs. power in the peloton. With the potential demise of team radios riders will increasingly be left to their own devices to decide race tactics. Precisely what Job's engineers have in mind.
With an iPad running Colossus mounted on the bike, that device will provide an unprecedented flow of decision support data... data that may mean the difference between getting in the move of the day or getting back in the team car. Complete local weather, rendered in stunning detail on the touch sensitive screen, including critical cross wind alerts (Alberto will order three). And it will respond to several cycling-specific gestures being developed by a disgraced former member of the Italian national team.
Is the picture getting clearer; the iPad and Colossus are going to change cycling forever. Need to know how much water, exactly, you are carrying back up to your team, Colossus will calculate weight to a tenth of a gram. Imagine a journeyman pro having this data available when his contract comes up for renewal.
Cycling specific iPads will indeed have the back mounted camera expected by so many pundits. By projecting an image of the road and front wheel on the screen with a data overlay (Apple refers to this as a heads down display mode), much of the unit's apparent mass is rendered invisible. In the interest of safety an emergency zoom mode is automatically triggered in the event of a front tire blowout, giving a rider precious extra seconds to watch the tire come off the rim. I'm going to reserve judgment on whether this will make the iPad's bezel look even bigger.
Expect to see three accessories during the second quarter. iPans, an ingeniously designed set of front panniers that connect to the iPad, the iProw mount that allows the iPad to be mounted vertically on the front of aero bars (the camera now fires directly forward meaning a rider can stay tucked longer); and finally a rear mount compatible with Fizik's ICS system so that team members in the draft can see exactly what gear and speed their lead out man has dialed in.
Given the fantastic video capabilities of the unit I'm already imagining Cavendish running his iPad behind the saddle. Visualize an afterburner animation as he lights it up... it's sure to scare whatever crap is left in the peloton every time he gets out the saddle.
Some features that were part of earlier prototypes will not make the initial launch, most notably the fish finder. The unit will ship with an ebook entitled, the Rider's Guide to French Brothels. Now that's an immersive experience. I'll be lining up to buy one, unless Steve reads this and sends me one for evaluation.