Give us a tablet already

I’m going to skip the usual Macworld predictions and cut straight to the good stuff: Apple needs a tablet for the huge numbers of artists and creative professionals who have stuck with the Mac for so long, or who are finally coming back to the platform. I hope for this every year, but the evidence is starting to mount that yes, Apple is working on something.

John Gruber “doesn’t see a tablet happening”:http://daringfireball.net/2008/01/macworld_expo_predictions:

“But why force software UI’s designed for traditional hardware form factors upon a totally different device? A successful tablet-like device from Apple, I think, would clearly be designed as a secondary computing device — a satellite attached and synched to a Mac or PC (probably, of course, through iTunes).”

I think his reasoning is exactly correct if you think about a tablet as just a Newton or large iPhone, but as I say above I don’t think that’s the market at all. Honestly as much as I loved the Newton, the iPhone works great as a replacement. The primary market for a Mac tablet is the millions of people who look at the “Wacom Cintiq”:http://www.wacom.com/cintiq/ and drool. An Apple tablet has to run full Mac OS X because it has to run Photoshop, Acorn, and Painter.

(Both Gruber and Dan Benjamin also discuss predictions during the latest “The Talk Show episode”:http://www.thetalkshow.net/, just posted. While you’re listening, also check out the “Hivelogic comprehensive podcasting guide”:http://hivelogic.com/articles/podcasting-equipment-guide/.)

So what about this: what if the MacBook sub-notebook and the tablet are one and the same? Imagine a beautiful slim MacBook with a detachable keyboard and touch-sensitive display, for example. Avoid the weird connections by making the keyboard Bluetooth only, with all the guts of the machine (including flash-based hard drive) behind the screen. I have a first-generation Toshiba Tablet PC and the hardware design is just bulky and terrible because they tried to make it all things to all people. A MacBook Nano-Tablet-Air could embrace “thin” and “tablet” and ignore everything else to achieve a truly great design.

But who knows. We’ll see in about 30 minutes.