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Mac Tablet not set in stone?

an image of an artists impression of a possible Apple Mac TabletThe idea of a Mac Tablet has been rumbling for a long, long time. If a past Apple meeting that included Steve Jobs is anything to go by, there’s little sign of Apple producing such a device.

So, despite my earlier ruminations on the subject, the Mac Tablet PC might never see the light of day:

“[Steve Jobs] said, tablet computers were not a big enough market for Apple to spend its limited resources chasing. And even if the market grew, it would not reach a size to be of interest. The form factor was all wrong. Apple was more interested in defining markets than trying to catch other companies that were busy trying to create a market for questionable products.

The wireless bandwidth for huge images, plus the security needed … was just not on the horizon. Plus, tablets’ screen resolution was nowhere near that required for [one of their key customers in the medical industry, NIH, who had pressed Apple on the issue of a Mac Tablet.]”

So there you have it! Straight from the horses mouth, so to speak.

As sexy an idea the Mac Tablet is, it’s not looking good. And ironically, this retelling of a discussion with Steve Jobs (if real) is actually quite comforting to me in the sense that here is evidence that Apple aren’t just chasing sexy ideas and putting style before substance.

Or to continue with the equine theme, Apple aren’t putting the cart before the horse.

“Most analysts would agree the market is growing only slowly, mostly in the healthcare and other specialised industries, and that these models will make at most 5% of the laptop market by 2009 (they account for 1% now). Even Dell doesn’t make its own tablet.”

The keen-eyed among you will notice that some of this article is a rehash of the Macworld rumor round-up article from Sunday, and you’d be dead right!

The thing is, I felt this topic needed a separate treatment and the stuff I mentioned on Sunday was pertinent.

The home portable media player is at hand

I still say that because one way or t’other Apple will bring some kind of touch screen based device to market.

Right now, the odds are in favor of the iPod transmogrifying into a media player with PDA functionality.

To be honest, this sounds a little weird. While I can see this gradually happening over time, I’m just concerned that the iPod will require it’s very own product matrix.

Remember when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and he almost instantly dispatched their entire line up of Macs? He reduced the number to a very simple product matrix, which not only made perfect sense to Apple, but to us, too.

In essence, the line up was desktop/mobile for consumer / professionals. But all of this was before the iPod. That one product changed everything.

In fairness to Apple, several other products have evolved into their own lines, which sort of follow the Good / Better / Best idea that Apple ran with a year or so ago.

So the iPod now plays games. Previous to that, the iPod took on notes and calendar data. Those two inclusions strike me as being little schismatic; the iPod is either for entertainment, or it’s evolving into a PDA.

Well, maybe it’s both! Maybe then, the iPod will split.

Look at the latest iPod, with it’s small keyboard. What if that’s a dry run, a test, if you like. Just a quick inclusion to test out a UI and see how it fares.

If it works out, then that could be the basis for the interface for an iPod that transitions into a separate line, one for out-and-out media and entertainment, with it’s full screen for video. While its sibling takes on more officious duties, such as notation, calender data, transferring files, that kind of thing.

Let’s not forget the name: iPod. Very generic and exceptionally non-specific. I’d wager that’s not by accident.

But then, what if the rumoured Apple mobile phone is also a part of this strategy? Things get both exciting and a little confusing.

A Mac tablet at Macworld .. but not as we know it!

“Never fear, it looks like OWC and manufacturing partner Axiotron are stepping in to fill the void with what they dub the ‘ModBook, the first ever Mac tablet computer solution.’ … The fact that these two companies are bringing the slate-style notebook.The touch input comes courtesy of WACOM, and thanks to Apple’s Inkwell technology, there’s already plenty of pen-based interfacing available in OS X … We’ll be finding out more when the computer is officially unveiled on January 9th at Macworld.”

Some will no doubt buy one of these items, even if it’s just for the novelty factor, or even the vainglorious bragging rights.

But most won’t buy one. Not unless it’s sporting one small item .. an Apple logo…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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