Oh Tablet Where Art Thou... | Cult of Mac

Oh Tablet Where Art Thou…



Take a trip with me to Fantasy Island”¦

The last Tuesday of the month is come and gone, and yet again my dreams of a Mac Tablet are dashed. I know it’s improper to lust after equipment this much, but perhaps that’s just where I am in life. I’ve reached a point (no matter how sad), that were I to see an attractive member of the opposite sex in a park with a Nikon D3 and Macbook Pro, I’m just as likely to think “Man, nice gear!” as any other potentially litigious thoughts. Now I know Apple doesn’t ask consumers about product design, but if they asked me about my oft-dreamed-of-tablet, here’s what I’d say:

#1. It’s an Accessory, not a Computer.
You could say the same thing about the MacBook Air, but the MBA isn’t priced like an accessory, it’s priced like a computer. The “Dream-Tablet” should be an $800 accessory to my existing collection of Macs.

#2 Because of #1, it doesn’t need to be powerful
We’ve already got “Back to My Mac,“ so if Apple beefed up this service a bit to run better over public networks, the Tablet simply becomes a “Cloud Computing” device; allowing me access back to my primary machine, whose power I can harness (alternatively, Apple if you’re listening: work with VMWare and make a “Mac Cloud” that these Tablets could tap into. You could do it if you wanted to, read Nick Carr if you want to know why you should).

Disconnected, if I’m on an airplane, or a cave in Bosnia, I should still be able to read a book, play music, drive iWork, Aperture or (Lord help me) Office. That said: I don’t need to be able to produce HDR images in CS3 un-tethered.

What I’m saying is: “Dream tablet” doesn’t need the latest lap scorching chipset from Intel.

#3 It doesn’t need a big hard drive.

Really. Solid state, instant-on OS is way better than storage for the sake of storage. If I had 16 Gigs to hold documents or photos that I needed to work on (or books I wanted to read) while contemplating the fate of the kid who keeps kicking the back of my seat, that would be plenty.

But lets make it expandable, here’s a novel idea: give me a slot, where I can “dock” my 160gig iPod classic. Just slide the whole sucker in there like some kind of removable drive, and we’re good to go; storage, music, movies whatever, making 2 accessories work together seamlessly, now that’s something uniquely Apple.


#4 Remember, it’s an Accessory.
Really, so when I’m back home, I don’t want to just put it on the shelf until my next trip (which is all too often). Lets make it into an active accessory I can use in my main computing environment. Watcom digitizing tablet anyone? Apple TV remote Control? Portable media hub? (I can totally see hooking this thing up to my TV and streaming video and audio), even just as an extra monitor, whatever, lets be flexible with it.

#5 It does not need to be:
An iPod, iPhone, iTypewriter, or a super-computer capable of composing a sountrack in Logic Pro and cutting a film short in Final Cut while waiting I’m for the First Class lavatory to become available. Nor does it need to use that goofy fake electronic paper stuff from Sony (which is cool for eBooks, but nothing else). None of that, just world-class “Back to my Mac”, and the ability to run regular OS X applications with a reasonable (say Mac Mini) level of performance. That and simply OUTSTANDING battery life.

Is that too much to ask?

Readers: what would YOU want out of a Mac Tablet?


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78 responses to “Oh Tablet Where Art Thou…”

  1. Gideon says:

    I think you nailed it.

    This is what I want to see most from Apple. Give me something like a giant ipod touch, do what you said, and I’ll be happy.

    Let me view the web, read my mail, blogs, etc… let me take notes no the device easily, let me use it to read books. Make it work enough like a mac that most applications can have an easy port to it – applications like Curio and comic book and book readers that can find an easy home here.

    And you’re absolutely right – it doesn’t need to be everything, and it does need to be an accessory and not a computer.

  2. Andreas says:

    A wireless touchscreen display with all the connectivity of the iphone, super .mac access and the interface of osx and then with beefed up multi-touch gestures. Practical, flexible and simple. I like it!

  3. Ivan says:

    Stroke of genius. Docking the iPod in the MacTablet…

  4. Jonathan W. says:

    There are so many things I love about my iPod Touch, but screen real estate is not one of them. Sure it’s larger than an iPod Classic’s display, but with the Touches capabilities (mail/web/apps/etc…) I frequently want for more pixels and a bit more processing grunt.

    At home I have a MacBook Pro and a Mac Pro in addition to the Touch. If I’m going to do some hardcore FCP or CS3 work I jump on the other two machines. I purely use the Touch for all my entertainment (audio + video, ex-games), web browsing, social networking and emails. Essentially the Touch is the machine I use when I don’t have to work.

    I’m totally with Leigh on all the above statement. That’ll be at least four orders, Mr. Jobs.

  5. nev says:

    I just want to be able to curl up on the couch, iPad in hand, read some blogs and watch the odd video. Is that too much to ask?

  6. ohcyt says:

    I wouldn’t really mind if it were a regular laptop replacing device, as long as I could somehow dock it to connect to a regular keyboard/mouse. Personally, that would make a more interesting device for me as I really dislike having multiple places to look for files. Just give it a nice 160GB iPod hard drive and let me use it, without having to worry about my other computers being powered on or anything.

  7. Gouldsc says:

    I know that one of the reasons that Electronic Healthcare Records software hasn’t really done much on the Mac platform (There’s Macpractice, but they’re not nearly as mature of a product as most of the major EHR programs) is primarily due to a lack of a tablet. I’m currently working on converting my father’s surgical practice over to paperless EHR, and would have chosen a Mac-based solution in a heartbeat if there was something like this for the Mac platform and mature software that could take full advantage of it.

    I guess what I’m saying is that a device in this style/form factor can have many potential applications in the real world beyond some of the more common/general ideas you shared. It would definitely work for Electronic Healthcare Records, but I’m confident that there are so many other potential niche applications like that one out there (especially as more and more industries go paperless).

  8. Stu says:

    Yes please.

  9. Jon says:

    I would buy one in a shot – perfect for use on the sofa, or down the coffee shop, or indeed when traveling.

    I used to work for a company who did develop a VERY simple tablet used in Woundcare for wound measurement. Unfortunately the quality was rubbish and had very limited features.

  10. Doug says:

    I dunno. I admit it’s very sexy, but I just don’t like the idea of having to hold it or prop it up on something to use it. For the medical field it seems a no brainer and perhaps other isolated demographics. Sitting on the couch….sure, if it has an $800 price point, which ain’t gonna happen.

    As a main stream computer, it would have to have a dock, but even then I just wouldn’t buy one. At least not to use……maybe just to look at! :O)

  11. C Rolls says:

    It wouldn’t be $800, that’s for sure. The docking idea is great, though I doubt it would be a built-in slot dedicated to iPod classics. Also — I’m still not keen on having to always hold a tablet to use it. Don’t they heat up after a little while?

  12. phoenix says:

    Someone get these folks a Modbook Pro, stat! ;)

  13. steve says:

    I love this idea. At $800, I’d buy two. Make it teen-sturdy and I’d buy one for my kid, too.

  14. leigh says:

    The $800.00 price point is critical. Anything more and it risks having to be a “real computer”, which very few (I could argue no) tablets are able to pull off well.

    I don’t need or want something that’s going to try (and fail) to replace my Mac Pro, or my MacBook Pro. We need an “Accessory” to them.

    On the feasibility of the actual price, The entry level Macbook at $1099, and that has to pretend to be a real computer.

    Instead think Apple TV with a screen.

  15. dominguero says:

    Amen to the #1. The price, always the price…

  16. Jorge says:

    I’d buy two or three of those in a heartbeat! And yes, the “sliding iPod” idea is pure genius!

    Ever since I got the iPod touch, I’ve been dreaming about some kind of mini-computer, a mix of a sub-notebook and the iPhone. Your tablet idea is even more appealing!

  17. Andrew DK says:

    This how you give the device a keyboard

    As for propping it up, well, just have a fold out stand. I also really, really doubt any Apple computer will have a built-in iPod/iPhone dock (as cool as that would be). They’re all different sizes, how would that work?

  18. Rick says:

    Add Inkwell and I’m with you

  19. Julie Gomoll says:

    Fantastic thinking! I’d grab one or more of these in a heartbeat. And as long as we’re dreaming:

    * Durability – The iTablet (iScreen? iPal?) has to be a workhorse. Surface need to be soft enough to withstand knocks, but smooth enough to slide across the table.
    * Physical extensibility – give me some place to hook stuff on – handles, clips, pens. I can even imagine accoutrements that transform this into its own sleek briefcase.
    * Basic, direct to mp3 recording, for voice notes or recording meetings.
    * Software that lets me sync the tablet, my MacBook Pro, and my iMac. I’m not sure how that needs to work, but it needs to work :) I want to come home, have my Time Capsule notice there are changes to the tablet, make the appropriate (photos? to the iMac. music? to the laptop. mail? to both) updates, then back everything up.

  20. Chuck says:

    I’ve been pushing for this for about 5 years now. Really all it needs to be is a graphical, wireless thin client. Some amount of flash storage and seamless syncing is icing on the cake and now easily possible.

  21. Andre says:

    A perfect specification of the requirement. I’ve been researching the ModBook for the same purpose… but an Apple product would be even better. And like many, I’d buy several as the kids and I would benefit from such a device in the many mobile situations we find ourselves.
    I’m with those who’ve said touchscreen capability, not a pen, would be my preference… or let me have both – even better. And the solid-state always-on capability is a definite. HDD is so 20th century.

  22. Steve says:

    Yes please. But it must have hand writing recognition (I guess that means it must come with a pen/stylus).

    I love the idea of it doubling as a touchpad for my iMac when I’m home. The mouse, like the HDD, is so 20th Century.

  23. john says:

    For years now, I’ve loved using my Fujitsu slate (not a tablet with a keyboard). I like the idea of a Sony eBook Reader or the Kindle, but I’m not convinced. My fix? High-res display! 72dpi ain’t enough. 200dpi or higher rivals older laserprinters. I crisp display ($$$) turns a Mac tablet into a sweet book reader, too. iBook, anyone?

    Also, tablets to-date seems to insist on pressure-sensitive displays with special styles. I don’t sketch on this thing. (although I do wonder if it’s needed for good handwriting recognition). I’d rather see a simpler iTouch interface (use your finger or a Palm-Pilot-like stylus) might keep costs down.

  24. leigh says:

    Ooooh… the Dream Tablet doubling as an input device… LOVE IT Steve, thanks..


  25. leigh says:

    On inkwell, handwriting and etc…

    I didn’t mention these, as I assumed them to be core tablet functionality that only a company like Microsoft would forget to include.

    Of **COURSE** we need to be able to take notes on it, transcribe handwriting to type written words and even use the stylus as a paintbrush for photo-retouching…

    Thank you one and all for making sure we didn’t forget this.


  26. harry says:

    I’d buy one in an instant; in fact I’m tossing my Nokia N800 Internet tablet, which was great for all the forementioned reasons except (*big except*) for the Linux part, and pondering to get a Touch … but I’d rather have twice as big a display.

  27. YodaMac says:

    A stylus??? A Stylus!!! Yuck! You’re kidding, right? …and a separate keyboard instead of a touch screen one???? One step forward, two steps back… :P

  28. steve says:


    Have a look at that, Leigh.

    From reading that, sounds to me like it’ll be more than the accessory you’re dreaming of, and more a full-fledged computer.

  29. Fig says:

    You lost me when you mentioned Nikon! You might as well buy a PC tablet.

  30. peter says:

    I would love one, just for internet, books, comics, movie (not DVD!) playback. I’ve got lots of digital books, magazines and comics. Hard-drive 16-32 GB. And if at all possible, different screen sizes, for me 12-13 inch would be great, (but I’ll take it if it’s only 10′). and accessible for book reader software (not only PDF, please.)

  31. alex says:

    I still think the patented idea of docking an entire macbook into a “shell” imac is great.

    But yes your thoughts are spot on.

  32. fuzzy says:

    Just remember, whatever photo-mocks and rumors come out about any Apple product, The real deal is always 10 times cooler than anyone anticipated.

  33. Jon Pugh says:

    The default storage for this device is on the wall at home, doing duty as an active picture frame until someone wants to either use it on the wall or take it down. A desktop picture stand would also be needed, so that it could serve as a picture frame slideshow while docked and charging. In fact, start off by showing the picture mode and introducing it as such, before picking it up and showing what else it can do. ;)

  34. farmboy says:

    But you’re wrong. What you say you don’t need and don’t need to do on the AppleTab (which I totally agree with) is EXACTLY what every single poster on Mac web sites will bitch about endlessly, and will be the source of numerous tech columns in the press.

    Just like the MacBook Air–they just don’t get “wireless”; in three years all laptops will be like that, but right now it’s some major product failure. The same occurred when Apple dumped the floppy drive, when Apple didn’t add 3G to the iPhone, etc.

    The great unwashed masses are hopeless. They don’t deserve leading edge tech.

  35. funkyboy says:

    very strange keyboard layout in the picture… which language is it?

  36. Ariodante says:

    Being able to prop this up on a music stand or above a keyboard instrument would make hands-free page-turning a heavenly dream for Mac-based performing musicians. Wynton Marsalis has one, but on that other platform.

  37. oli says:

    *For those of you wanting a stylus, try using one on the current iphone (it wont work), apple would have to dump there current touchscreen technology which would be costly. *For those of you wanting an ipod slot, this is unlikely to happen as it will limit apple to a single form factor, which would mean they would either have to squeeze new technology in or leave it out. T

    *I want from it is the ability to run REAL mac apps, and more importantly compatibility with my new apple wireless keyboard (which refuses to work with my iphone bluetooth)..

  38. Cassandra says:

    I agree that the tablet as accessory would be handy for people who already own mac laptops but for those who don’t already own one, a tablet as laptop would be ideal. I’m thinking university students as I write this because of a tablets notetaking capabilities, ie for diagrams, math, etc. I would spring for a mac tablet if I didn’t have to buy another computer as well and I can see many of my peers doing the same

  39. Jethro says:

    Needs to be about 2.5 x iphone with GOOD WiFi, GPS decent camera/video from a wireless camera on my visor. I would like a case that attaches to my forearm for most computing, surfing and a wireless stereo headset. I’d use it mostly to play my existing video or music content, games or surf the web, grab pics from friends cameras/phones. Should have handwriting recognition for quick note taking and some kind of barcode scanner for creating shopping lists wqhen I run our of something at home. Should have voice recognition and noise cancellation. Should be very car friendly: interface with radio, charge up, maybe automatically use the web to sync with my “always on” home computer.

    External wirelss devices: keyboard, camera, headset, DVD reader, maybe a scanner.

    Needs to be fast with a fast interface…seems resonable