Tablet Mac Coming Your Way?

by Chris Seibold Jan 14, 2004

Tablet Mac? Probably not, but what’s wrong a little, mostly baseless, speculation? Cast your mind back to the MacWorld keynote. If, by chance, you were awake when Microsoft was on the stage you heard the yattering about Microsoft Office 2004. I’m not trying to disparage Microsoft by calling their presentation “yattering”, I’m sure it will be a great product and I think Microsoft is a fine company, but the presentation was a little dull (a perfect fit for the most recent keynote). It seemed as though the Microsoft people droned on forever about taking notes with a new, misnamed feature. The boredom factor increased when they noted that if you missed something point you could rewind the actual audio of whatever it is you were taking notes about. This nifty newness, seemingly useless, from Microsoft will be called, achingly, Word NoteBook Layout View (get the lawyers to trademark that spiffy name right away).

Allow me to digress for one moment. Calling a feature Word Notebook layout view epitomizes the difference between Apple and Microsoft (remember I like Microsoft stuff). Apple would call something like that iPen, or NoteTake or something much slicker. Microsoft would name an iBook: White Self Contained Computer Device Which User Can Open. Thanks, I feel much better.

Let us grant for the moment that Word Notebook Layout View could be a neat feature (for whatever reason). What current Mac could possibly make decent use of this feature? Obviously you’re not going to be taking notes on your G5, unless you’re really rich (perhaps probable, after all you’ve got a G5) and can afford to have folks lecture you at home. That’s not really a fit, and it wouldn’t mesh with the demo in any event. No the demo went thusly: You have your notes and you’re unclear on some point, rewind the audio and listen to the speaker. Retype note to say “Said brother not Mother.” Seems nifty in theory, although it would ruin every episode of Three’s Company (Mr. Roper could rewind what Janet said, no misunderstandings), but it is clearly aimed at a portable computer.

That leaves the iBook or PowerBook. The microphone is in the completely wrong place to record the goings on in front of you. The microphone on the iBook resides in the upper right hand corner of the screen, great for recording what you say, not good for recording what people in front of you say. You could turn the thing around to catch the speakers voice but how would you take notes? That brings us to the concept of notes. Notes which aren’t Lotus or musical in nature tend to be hand written. I know that there are intrepid souls who haul their laptops to meetings and lectures and type in notes but for the average Joe notes mean writing. While you could, feasibly, take notes on your current iBook the hassle of transcribing the notes once you get home and then cleaning the writing off the outside of the iBook seems prohibitive .

This brings us to the speculation point of the article. Supposing Microsoft is not pulling another ill-fated Microsoft Bob one might assume they had a general idea of where Apple is headed. We also know that inkwell, while rarely used, resides in the innards of Mac OS X. As outlined above all current Macs would be woefully inadequate to fully use the over lengthy and inadequately descriptive feature named Word NoteBook Layout View. To fully realize the usefulness of the features Microsoft demoed at the last MacWorld there’s going to have to be a tablet option. You heard it here first.

Or maybe not, this is speculation and worth what you paid for it. The more likely option is that the demoed features will be largely useless. If they turn out to be useful it will be in a here-to-fore un-thought of way. After all Apple is really good at that kind of thing.


  • Chris,

    (forgive the long post…)

    Remember these?:

    IMHO, just one piddly (but neat) natural-writing note-taking feature in the upcoming Office ‘04 is too little incentive for Apple to release an “iPad” any time soon, you’ll fully agree on that. One interesting tidbit that I have yet to encounter though is if the MS MBU have used OS X’s built-in Ink.framework or a bolted-on in-house solution…

    As duly noted elsewhere in the electrosphere, the Tablet PC has failed miserably as a mass phenomenon, but thrives in vertical niche markets for medical, on-site construction management or as a status symbol for corridor warriors and the odd gadget fetishists, of which I know a couple. The WinTel portable crowd is headed towards intel’s great Centrino chipset(**),  CES ‘04 was devoid of any Tablet PC or “intelliget display” announcements, as MS obviously wants to shift the media’s attention to Entertainment PCs and away from the whole tablet fiasco, so tablets are a big “No go” in Apple’s foreseeable future.

    (** Rest assured, I’m a Mac head, but 1.6GHz Centrinos beating the heck out of 2.4GHz Mobile Pentium IVs is too rich to ignore. I just have to praise intel in their optimisation effort, though Chipzilla’s marketing muscle is stuck at selling GHz over efficiency… Now let’s see who hops in the “GigaHertz Myth” bandwagon next… wink

    Apple cannot afford to be a niche player in its own niche, their efforts are best used to penetrate existing mass and specialised markets. Using their current product line they have a nice set of inways to the enterprise, clustering, education, consumer and content creation markets, which is already work enough. I’d hate to see Apple spend any efforts trying to emulate MS’s one and only recent “innovation”, which amounts to little more than slapping together Win XP, a handwriting engine and some Wifi drivers, calling the package “Windows Tablet Edition” and urging manufacturers to conform to that particular “vision” of the future. Big deal.

    The Tablet PC is mighty late to the note-taking innovation party… Logitech has a very neat product, released some four years ago, that applies lateral thinking to electronic note-taking, in form of a special USB ball-point pen device. The concept unfolds thusly: you take good old-fashioned notes on a specially-printed paper pad with the pen, which records the notes by referring to the microscopic pattern printed on the paper, meaning that you’re electronically recording your notes AND producing a hard copy at the same time! At the end of the session, plug the pen into a USB port and Logitech’s software will dowload the notes, with eery precision and a lot less energy spent… and MS wants people to unload $2K+ on the sole argument of note taking? No wonder Redmond bleeds cash from all veins, surviving only on revenue generated from Windows and Office.

    Here’s my take on InkWell: since 10.2, OS X has a hidden “InkWell” system control preference pane, appearing only when you connect a compatible graphic tablet; hidden to avoid frustration from tablet-less users, InkWell is more of a set of frameworks for third party developers wanting to set up custom-tailored services such as interactive kiosks. Along the same lines, Panther has a hidden collection of institutional badges and logos ranging from the US Navy to Public Education, used in various built-in personnel identification services such as SmartCards et al. That’s where InkWell can, and will, weigh in to supply the frameworks for written signature identification, that kind of stuff, serious hum-ho DARPA hush-hush spooky stuff…

    Repeat: InkWell has more useful applications and higher ambitions than to cater to the needs of gizmo-fed immobility-challenged pinstripe-suit-clad pseudo-executive corridor-dwelling types. ‘Nuff said.

    You will find some of my newer material here (more coming…): [url=][/url] ) The Main Mac Design Speculator is, of course, Isamu Sanada at

    On the 24th of january, you’ll see why 2004 will be kinda like 2001… only, like, 3 years later… and stuff… hrm.


    flyermoney had this to say on Jan 14, 2004 Posts: 9
  • i think that people tend to over-estimate what Apple has “in the wings ready to shock and amaze”

    I fully believe that Apple has tons of things in concept stage - a designer worth his/her salt can conceptualize hundreds of feasible products in a month’s time.

    Inkwell is not “hidden” Sure it only shows up when a pen tablet is connected - that is standard Mac HCI - if you don’t have Bluetooth hardware the Sys Pref for Bluetooth doesn’t show up either.

    I think Apple has made the point clear that they will not produce hardware for anything other than the mass-market consumer, creative professional, and education. Two of those being traditional, while consumer products being new with the second coming of Steve Jobs.

    If the tablet become an integral part of one of those markets - then we will see an Apple version. Pretty easy to predict.

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 14, 2004 Posts: 219
  • nathan: “If the tablet become an integral part of one of those markets - then we will see an Apple version. Pretty easy to predict.”

    My point precisely. Damn! you’re concise… wink

    flyermoney had this to say on Jan 14, 2004 Posts: 9
  • actually, the more I think about it, I think it’s probably Microsoft being well… Microsoft.
    On the other hand, I doubt Apple will wait until a tablet becomes an integral part of a market. I suspect Apple could do something to make the tablet much more appealing than it is now. Weren’t mp3 players a niche before the iPod?

    chrisseibold had this to say on Jan 14, 2004 Posts: 48
  • My 3 cents:

    Chris: “Weren’t mp3 players a niche before the iPod?”

    mp3 players were a small but expanding market before Apple threw the iPod into the arena. RAM based players were dominated by Riő, Nike et al. and quite nifty these gadgets were, but 64MB was pretty much the expensive higher limit…

    The Asian market has seen a lot of MP3 CD players appear since long, and it was Archos who brought one of the first hard-disk based MP3 players to the world. About as portable as bricks and limited to slooow USB 1.1, but cheap and Wintel-compatible, the Archos players were serious competition for apple’s snazzy, but Mac-only, 5Gig iPod rookie.

    iPod was Apple’s answer to an existing and highly competitive market. The Tablet PC, however, is going nowhere. The market is reduced to the tattered shadow of a sliver of a very small portion.

    Recap: Apple has better things to do than compete in a market without competition, they’ve already pulled a Segway :/ with the Cube, which had the proverbial chance in hell, what with the “brainless” pricing for a “headless” iMac…

    Chris: “I think it’s probably Microsoft being well… Microsoft.”

    Before Mac OS X, iTunes had a plug-in driver architecture, allowing for players others than the iPod to connect and synchronise. Now, with iTunes, iPod and the iTMS, Apple has consolidated a pretty hermetic music outfit, litterally “the Microsoft of online music store” Steve said, effectively shutting out other digital players. All this is for the good of open standards and FairPlay DRM licences, I hope…

    (painstakingly trying to erase the mental image of MWSF’04 attendees gawking at the audience of PC drones in the 2004 redux of the 1984 ad, brrrr…)

    I’m getting an “H-P-O-D”, because HP deserves a positive signal, as a confirmation that AAC is the logical stepping stone, because I happen to like Jellyfish Acqua Blue, because I’ll have an easy, but somewhat sorry, excuse to serve people who point at Apple’s MPEG-4/AAC while screaming bloody monopoly.

    bleep bleep bleeeeep….

    flyermoney had this to say on Jan 15, 2004 Posts: 9
  • ... before my above post starts a “Cube War”, please understand that I’m a totally cubeless enthusiast of this ground-breaking machine, I just wish marketing didn’t rule everything! Man, never seen a fanless computer with so many fans!

    Long live the Cube and to hell with hyperventilating “Media Center Cube PC"s!

    flyermoney had this to say on Jan 15, 2004 Posts: 9
  • Tablet PC is only a nitch for the certain client as mentioned above.  The fact is, notebooks out sell tablets because they are more conventional to the average user.  I have no interest in writing this statement with a stylus.  I love to type and I feel more comfortable doing so.  With that said…

    As for Microsoft’s new Office.  Microcrap can shove it.  I bought Office with my iBook and have no interest in upgrading.  To tell the truth, the software I use on an almost daily basis is Entourage.  I rarely use Word and haven’t used Excel or Powerpoint and I’ve had the Office suit for about two years now.  Most of my typing is done using Open Office.  I find it easier and does not crash compared to Office.  Also, I don’t want to give my cash to the devil.  I think if Apple came up with something better than Apple Works, I’d buy it and delete office.

    Tuju Crue had this to say on Jan 15, 2004 Posts: 15
  • The mother of all Tablet Mac rumors - A Hoax?!

    Check out what I found out about the August rumor ‘Euro filing reveals Apple handheld computer’ here. 

    Ronny had this to say on Jan 01, 2005 Posts: 1
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