Apple Software & Hardware Technology

Tech’ news in brief: the Mac Tablet saga continues…

No sooner does the warm glow of the Apple iPhone begin to peak on the horizon, more Mac Tablet rumours begin to roll & churn:

Apple has filed for a European design trademark which may provide a tantalising glimpse of the company’s long-awaited tablet computer.

The filing, made in May this year but only published this week, covers a ‘handheld computer‘ and contains sketches of what look like an iBook screen minus the body of the computer.”

It’s a fair bet that with Apple gettin’ the whole touch screen thing licked with the iPhone, they’re now looking to make the most of what remains and target another complementary market.

So despite me first working up a head of steam with the idea of a touch screen Mac Tablet, and scooping the Jeff Han connection into the bargain, I was sort of there .. only it was the iPhone and not a tablet.

Or was I closer than I thought?

“Read into this what you will, but people have been buzzing about a tablet Mac for months and months now and Steve Jobs himself admitted that the company developed a new line of PDAs which they then abandoned at the last second. A new multimedia tablet, or could this possibly even be the design for the new iMac, which could turn out just be an all-in-one flat-panel PC?”

I ran an article recently that referenced an interview with Steve Jobs himself who was uncharacteristically meticulous in the detail to which he dismissed the idea of a Mac Tablet. However, that was as a result of a Q&A session with NIH, a large medical client of Apple’s.

So that’s a question from the point of view of a client whose needs are hugely different in many ways from those of, say, someone like me.

“Back in November 2003, Matthew Rothenberg at eWeek let the cat out of the bag with a ‘hunch’ that Apple had seeded prototype tablet Macs with developers. The device used Mac OS X’s Inkwell handwriting recognition technology and a healthy amount of knowledge picked up during the development of the Newton OS.

Matt later refined his hunch to encompass a ‘device that superficially resembles a large iPod with an 8in diagonal screen, lacks a keyboard, packs USB and FireWire ports, and runs Mac OS X along with a variety of multimedia goodies’.

His January 2004 launch window has long since passed. But Apple may finally be about to bring it to market.”

Knowing the long gestation periods for Apple many projects, none of this strikes me as odd. I’m of the same school of thought as Apple: if you’re going to do something, do it to the very best of your abilities and don’t let anyone rush you. Excellence takes time.

I think that if Apple do go down the route of a Mac Tablet, as I mentioned in my series of articles on the Mac Tablet, the focus will be on their core markets rather than the more high-end needs of medical or sciences customers. But that’s not to say that they’d be overlooked!

Such a move would be a shrewd one. After all, Jobs was quoted as saying that he wished he could ship the iPhone for $100, but couldn’t, presumably because of parts costs. Although, he was pretty adamant that the price would come down.

Now, he can be bullish if he’s confident that the iPhone will sell like mad, and that would have an impact on price because as volume increases, thus their parts costs come down.

But what if Apple suddenly start producing a product that while serving a different needs – and arguably a different audience – would make use of the same parts as the iPhone? Might that not free up Jobs to be extra, extra bullish?

After all, if they’re selling more products that use the same parts, then the parts costs would come down quicker.

Touch screen technology isn’t new, but it’s still expensive, and if my speculation has any substance to it, it’s best to keep a finger in the air and stay in touch…

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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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