Modbook, the Mac Tablet of Yore, Marches Back Into Action
After years of radio silence, Modbook is once again ready to build Mac tablets. To make its new Modbook Pro, the company disassembles 13-inch MacBook Pros and fits the guts inside custom tablet enclosures with stylus interfaces. The modification void's Apple's warranty, but Modbook offers a warranty of its own.
06/29/12 6:00 AM PT
The Modbook Pro, a converted MacBook Pro that has been modified by Modbook and is billed as the first Mac tablet, is set to return to the market later in 2012 after an absence of several years.
Its predecessor, the Modbook, which was based on a MacBook, was one of the best-of-show winners at Macworld 2007.
Modbook basically takes a 13-inch MacBook Pro, strips off its enclosure, including the display and the keyboard and trackpad assembly, and slips what's left into its an enclosure with a screen and stylus interface.
The modification voids Apple's one-year warranty, so Modbook offers a limited one-year warranty of its own. However, it reportedly is still in the process of setting up authorized service centers. These will be announced before the device ships in early fall.
Modbook Pro Specs
The Modbook Pro's configurable base system has a 2.5 GHz dual core Intel Core i5 processor or a 2.9 GHz dual core Intel Core i7 processor. It also has up to 16 GB of RAM, a 2.5-inch SATA drive of up to 1 TB capacity, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset, an 8x SuperDrive DVD burner, a built-in 64.5 WH lithium-polymer battery, and a 60 W MagSafe power adapter. It supports WiFi and Bluetooth.
A Modbook Pro tablet has a 13.3-inch display with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution and a ForceGlass screen that provides an etched drawing surface that simulates paper. Its Wacom digitizer delivers 512 levels of pen pressure sensitivity.
The device runs all Mac applications. Users can also run OS X's Boot Camp app to install 32- or 64-bit Windows 7.
The Modbook Pro serves as a standalone tablet.
Just Another USB Peripheral
The Modbook enclosure links to a MacBook Pro through one of the latter's two standard USB 3.0 ports. The enclosure seals the connection and the port within the Modbook Pro. All other ports remain accessible from the outside.
The Modbook Pro closely follows Apple's design guidelines for USB high-performance peripherals, Modbook says. The Mac modifier contends the Modbook Pro is essentially a fully standards-compliant USB device.
Dibs on Bragging Rights
"Is this [Modbook Pro] cool? Sure," Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld. "But like anybody who makes custom enclosures for current laptops like jewel-encrusted ones, people will buy it because of that -- and I don't think it's going to be a good idea."
The Modbook Pro "has a very high cool factor, and Apple's base is filled with folks that chase stats," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "This product will carry a very high status aspect. Hell, I'm tempted to buy one."
Further, the Modbook Pro "is a device designed for the Mac OS and those who like to work with styluses," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "It's a productivity tablet focused more on creation than consumption."
Too Much Focus Hurts
However, the Modbook Pro's extreme specialization might hurt its future.
"People are going to be asked to pay a premium for something that's going to have a very specialized purpose," ABI's Orr pointed out. "That's where I'm challenged. You could say this is a good OS, has a good application base, a good connection to the Internet, but how many people are there that really want it?"
On the other hand, the Modbook Pro's ability to run Windows 7 "also suggests it could run Windows 8," Enderle told MacNewsWorld. That "might provide a hedge if the user wanted to switch to Windows 8 either because they like it or because support sucked too much on this product."
Modbook did not respond to our request for comment.