The Macworld iTablet: Ramblings of a Madman, or does he know something…? - Macenstein

The Macworld iTablet: Ramblings of a Madman, or does he know something…?

Very rarely at Macenstein, someone who knows a little bit of something drops us a tip in the days leading up to a big Mac event, such as Apple’s Macworld this January. More often, however, we get crazy rambling letters from conspiracy nuts. The problem with discounting the conspiracy nuts out of hand is, of course, they are usually right. Apple probably IS working on a cold fusion rocket in some underground lab, and odds are we’ll never see it, but you never know…

One such recent series of e-mails comes to us from faithful Macenstein reader Doug, who outlines his theories on the upcoming iTablet for us. Doug presented his e-mail in such as way as at first we thought he might have actual concrete info and tech specs, but upon further questioning, he admitted he is not on the design team and does not work for Apple. However, he did say “…this is NOT me just going nuts and guessing”, (so maybe he knows something!) and then added “it is partially speculation” (so maybe he doesn’t).

S0, we don’t know quite what to make of Doug’s thoughts here. They sound eerily plausible and Doug has certainly done his research. There’s nothing here that screams “BS!” except that Doug doesn’t seem to KNOW any of this for a fact (or does he…? Duhn Duhn Duhn…)

But, since he has taken the time (a LOT of time) drawing links between every possible bit of intelligence on the iTablet to date (and saved us from having to do any real work) we present Doug’s theories for you to enjoy, and discuss. WARNING: Do not read unless you have 40 minutes to kill.

E-Mail 1:

Name: Unknown; possibly Mac Nano; also Mac Touch, Mac Tablet, Mac Slate (probably decided by now but I don’t know what it i)

based on many AppleTV components

black plastic or carbon, brushed aluminum, glossy glass touch screen, cross between iMac and iPhone design cues, but subtle “rubberized” area on back for grip

7.4 x 4.8 inches, .6 inches thick

7 inch diagonal display, 960 x 540 pixels (16:9 ratio)

5-8 hours battery life

Intel processor


This is still an Edge device! But it is not attached to AT&T. Use the wi-fi for free or get your own data plan from almost any carrier. Why? This is not a phone. And one of its targets is enterprise, and a Fortune 500 company is not going to change carrier’s companywide for a new device, but if they can add it onto their Verizon or whatever account, no prob.


This device may offer GPS integration with Google Maps, or it may be an option. Or it may not be included at all.

32GB or 64GB flash drive

built-in iSight camera (no other built-in camera); video iChat over Wi_Fi only; 1-on-1 only

1 USB port that can access optical drives, burners, hard drives, scanners, printers, cameras, KEYBOARDS

no optical drive (of course) or any expansion (i.e. SD or other memory cards) slot

built-in stereo speakers

headphone jack

power/sleep button

home button on right hand side, but can be rotated to portrait in certain apps, placing home button at bottom.

The OS is Apple’s modified, touch-input, Leopard-light version first seen on the iPhone, but more feature rich and includes a basic Finder and a form of pull-down menu.

Note that this makes 4 versions of OS X – the very basic version on the Apple TV, the iPhone version, this version, and the full version. They all work completely harmoniously together, have extremely reasonable processor/RAM/storage requirements, are very stable, continually gain robust and rich features, and are developed and maintained by a team of programmers a fraction of the size of the Windows team.

The SDK soon being released for the iPhone is really an SDK that was always planned for this device – the demand for 3rd party apps on the iPhone was foreseen, but not its intensity. So, what types of apps will be developed for this device? A whole lot, Apple hopes. This represents a whole new software platform, but much of the code for any desktop Leopard app can be “recycled” for this platform….including a “lite” version of iLife – this device will run an iTunes much like the full version, along with iCal, an almost feature-parity version of Mail, and lite versions of iChat, iPhoto, iWeb and even a resolution-limited and severely feature-stripped iMovie!

The Mac Touch can print to many printers using CUPS! It can access servers and mount network volumes of almost all types! VPN supported out of the box.

Okay, sounds pretty great, the power of OS X and Apple’s software suite in a tiny, powerful package with a brilliant, high resolution touchscreen, that can print, surf, access peripherals and more. You can download a movie from iTunes and play it, with sound, for an audience. You can video iChat.You can listen to your music on the subway home. You can connect your digital camera, load the photos, and post them to a gallery or your .Mac account.

For someone who has a PC, perhaps one at home they share with other family members, this could be a unique personal machine for the “digital lifestyle” – all the emailing, surfing, blogging, IMing, video chatting, blogging, YouTubing and more that you can eat. Soon a plethora of 3rd party apps could offer games, productivity and more.

What about as an enterprise machine? Get corporate email and surf anywhere in HQ or downtown, login via VPN from home, etc. But a “lite” version of iWork will sweeten the deal. Awesome spreadsheet, presentation and word processing/desktop publishing, with compatability with Office if needed. Light, durable, a days battery charge, ultimately portable from meeting to meeting yet powerful.

But lets look at the pitfalls tablets or PDAs have fallen into while trying to scale the enterprise mountain:

1. Underpowered, overpriced.
In the past, many simple, relatively wimpy PDAs running proprietary handheld-only operating systems have cost considerably more than desktop machines. Stagnant software environments failed to deliver robust applications. The “underpowered” aspect has been, to a degree, addressed.The Sony Vaio UX Micro boasts an Intel Core Duo 2 processor at 1.2GHz that is similar (identical?) to whats inside the Mac Nano, and runs a desktop OS (admittedly Windows Vista) – specs similar to some low-end notebooks of a year or so ago. But, it starts at $2,499 – about $2,000 more than that laptop. And if it barely has enough power to open a 5MB PowerPoint file why go through the hassle?

2. Software drought.
Any machine-maker has been largely dependent on 3rd parties for the productivity software to run on these machines, usually Microsoft. And if they decide to develop it in-house, they face the daunting and expensive task of assembling a programming team and starting from scratch.

3. Too confusing.
These PDAs, tablets and handhelds have used stylus, mini-keyboards, mini-trackballs, mini-joysticks and more as input devices. They have things that pop out, slide out, swivel out and sometimes just fall out. They are often covered in buttons and ports. PDAs, tablet computers and handheld enterprise computing devices take 2-3 times the IT support, even further magnifying their cost.

4. Limited use.
After all this fuss, their lack of computing, difficulty in day-to-day use, and lack of software availability mean most of these devices end up being relegated to one or two simple tasks – to check email while out of the office, to lug files home to work on your PC over the weekend, or to share a PowerPoint file at lunch; all things which can be done, respectively, by a laptop (way cheaper), a USB thumb drive (WAAAAAAY cheaper), and printouts (just plain cheap).

How does the Mac Nano address these issues? A suggested retail price is possibly as low as $1299. Before you say “I can get a MacBook for that!” remember that the Sony Vaio UX Micro starts at $2,499 – other similar devices go over $4,000. Even laptops with swivel screens that offer frustrating and crude handwriting recognition and are therefore called tablet PCs start at that price and go way higher. Its a compelling price point, and will get even more compelling, as you’ll see.

The software drought will be ended, out of the box, by Apple. This version of Leopard is incredibly stable and robust and powerful, with remarkably low overhead. Comparisons to Windows Mobile, Windows Tablet PC and Windows Vista Genuine Business will be inevitable, and only Rob Enderle or Mary Jo Foley will have Windows Anything coming out on top. Throw in iLife ’08 lite and iWork ’08 lite. And offer 3rd party developers a brand new platform to sell their software to, with a fanatic audience, with a minimum of re-coding.

Simplicity and ease-of-use are Apple’s hallmarks. Plugging in a keyboard for hardcore typists is an options, but the touchscreen will be the only other interface, and has already proven remarkable effective and popular on the iPhone and iPod Touch.There is a power/sleep button and the home button – THAT IS ALL.

Limited use? Puh-leeze. Its ease-of-use and rich software package will encourage a wide variety of uses, not only as a business machine, but for personal fun and productivity as well. Personal movie theater on the plane, make a quick Keynote presentation, sort through vacation photos, and during the layover in Dallas, upload some to your .Mac gallery, and maybe layout and order and iPhoto book as well. Then play some poker online, video chat with the kids at home, check work email, Yahoo email, visit, the, and then just play some tunes. And maybe go to the iTunes store and buy “Mothership” by Led Zep. Let’s not forget this is also an iPod Touch ON STEROIDS!

Now, here’s where things get really interesting. The dock. The dock, the dock, the dock. Meaning the thing you plug it into, not the glassy icons on the 3-D shelf. The dock connector on the Mac Nano is entirely new and unlike that in iPods or the iPhone. Its based on Intel’s PCI Express in order to supply more juice and bandwidth.There are 2 docks currently planned for the Mac Nano – one comes with it, and its purpose is to sync and charge. The 2nd, optional dock (possibly called the Nano Dock or humorously referred to internally as the Duo Dock – do some quick thinking Apple historians) is where things get interesting. This dock is apprx. the size of the Nano itself. It contains an 80GB laptop hard drive and a RAM slot (or perhaps 2?) with 1GB standard, configurable up from there, and a laptop video card. It has 10/100 Ethernet, 3 USB 2.0 slots, one FW400, DVI, an optical drive, and a fan. Plug your Mac Nano into this dock, and it boots into the full, desktop version of Leopard, which is installed on the flash drive. Your Cinema Display and bluetooth keyboard and mouse are now being driven by this teeny, tiny computer, but the experience is not sluggish at all. The processing power of this Mac Nano is roughly where the iMac was just a couple years ago. Don’t want to run Adobe CS3 or Final Cut on it, but 99% of what most users do will run just fine. And of course you get the full version of iLife with this, the full version of iWork will be sold separately.

Think about it. A tablet computer running an operating system and software designed for a tablet computer effortlessly becomes a desktop computer running an operating system and software designed for a desktop computer – but it is in essence THE SAME OPERATING SYSTEM AND SOFTWARE!! The file format for all your iWork “lite” files is the same as iWork itself, no data loss or re-formatting, no copying it over, its all on the same computer.

All the User folder and application stuff goes on the laptop hard drive in the Nano Dock, and merges with the OS when docking occurs. Leopard is installed on a flexible partition on the flash drive that is visible but protected. Limited and selectable user settings are synced to the Mac Nano, so you can take your passwords and so forth with you. Yes, the Mac Nano’s touch OS supports multiple users – after all, someone else may need to use that Mac Nano for something. You logout, turn it over to them, they log in, it becomes a whole new Mac Nano for them. FileVault makes it secure. If there is only one user account on the Mac Nano, but it is plugged into a Nano Dock with someone else’s user account on the dock’s hard drive, it will boot into Leopard with their account but they will not have access to the Mac Nano’s data.

Does the brilliance of this strike you yet? The uniqueness? Apple has taken the strengths of OS X and leveraged them into the enterprise market in a way nobody has foreseen. Truly portable, but it can become a desktop machine in a flash. Supports true multiple users with strong security. Depending on who you talk to, there has been one worm and one Trojan horse for Mac OS X. There has still never been an OS X virus – proof-of-concept or virus-in-a-lab maybe – but not in the wild. And if you choose the plain ol’ dock version it will gladly sync with and fully cooperate with your Windows PC, but Apple will have these people using a version of OS X on the Mac Nano and carrying around the full version inside it! If Joe Business Suit gets a Mac Nano to use at work and sync with his PC, how long before he consider buying the $499 Nano Dock so that when he gets home and can plug it in and try out that Leopard he’s heard so much about, especially when he can justify it by the fact that HE CAN ALSO RUN WINDOWS ON THE VERY SAME MACHINE!!!!!!!! Get it? Boot Camp works on this baby of course. Run Leopard-lite on the Mac Nano out in the field, Windows back in the office, and Leopard at home, with Windows there when needed.

It gets even cooler. Leopard lite can continue running on the Mac Nano’s touchscreen even while docked and running Leopard full. Prop the Mac Nano in its dock next to your Cinema Display and flick thru CoverFlow or check email while working in PowerPoint or whatever on your big screen. A slight speed ding? Yes, but very slight. The Leopard lite overhead is small.

This will be a triumph of Apple engineering, design and software unlike anything the world has seen, including the iPhone. Apple will again create a whole new market and stick a giant (or nano-sized) foot into the enterprise door.

E-mail 2

Here’s some evidence of convergence pointing towards the Mac Nano. Select partners have been told, under strictest legal terms of confidence, that Apple is soon to deliver an ultra-portable device.

Google is enhancing its Maps to provide GPS-like functionality:

That’s how the Mac Nano can be used as a GPS device without the added cost and size of actual hardware GPS. GPS is a key feature sought by business people in a mobile device. On the iPhone Google Maps has proved enormously popular.

Also, the optical drive in the Mac Nano Duo Dock is the smaller 8cm kind rather than full-size standard 12 cm. Apple is going to begin shipping all their software on these CDs and all new Macs will have an optical drive capable of reading both sizes:…ing_drives.html

If this device is to be a successful enterprise machine, the ability to make PowerPoint presentations could be seen as vital:

There is more to this syncing and exporting than is being revealed now. Please note that Office 2008 for Mac is being released at MacWorld Jan 15th – hmmm, I wonder what else is being released there that might seem to be more than a coincidence? Microsoft has its own Windows Mobile, true, but the Mac Business Unit is allowed to function with great independence, and Microsoft is desperate to have a software product for mobile products that is actually seen as a success, and they think they can achieve it here.

And please note that Apple began procuring long term contracts for flash storage months ago…why? Speculations abounded:


Apple has developed and abandoned an Apple tablet before that never saw the slightest light of day, maybe this one will be too, maybe there is another one being co-developed I know nothing about that will be chosen instead of this one, but such a prototype exists.

for your reading:

E-Mail 4:

Note, I’ve had some people question the processor and insist something like this MUST use an ARM processor. It is an Intel processor. The Sony Vaio UX Micro uses an Intel processor and it is even smaller. In typical Apple fashion of under-promising and over delivering, battery life is probably closer to 8-12 hours, to cover a full business day without recharging. But that would also point to a Core Solo like the Mac Mini used to have. Hey, if you aren’t going for 50fps in Quake or retouching in Photoshop, who will notice?

So, there you have it. Um… proof that either Apple is releasing a new iTablet at Macworld, or they aren’t. What say you?

15 Responses to “The Macworld iTablet: Ramblings of a Madman, or does he know something…?”
  1. Rowlings says:

    Oh good lord! Can someone please sum this up?!? Who has this much free time?!?!
    oh wait, I do..

  2. Mike says:

    My favorite line

    “This device may offer GPS integration with Google Maps, or it may be an option. Or it may not be included at all.”

    Brilliant! This must be Jobs himself writing, he knows so much!

  3. Richard Neal says:

    I call bullshit. Doug said that it would use Edge, but you can go on any carrier, such as Verizon. However, Verizon uses CDMA, not GSM, and therefore doesn’t use Edge. Also, the whole Dock, although cool, seems really excessive and complicated for an Apple product. Finally, there is no way in hell Apple could sell something for that low of a price with all these features. 32 GB of flash memory costs a lot.

  4. Rabid Doug says:

    Dude, I pulled Verizon out of my ass just for example, ease up. It has Edge; it does not have 3G because of battery drain. It is not tied to AT&T.

  5. Rabid Doug says:

    And regarding “32GB of flash memory costs a lot” – dude, did you even read the links????? Apple has been getting long-term, high volume contracts for NAND from Samsung and others in order to get costs as low as possible.

  6. Rabid Doug says:


  7. Rabid Doug says:

    Another doubting Thomas said the whole syncing-with-user-accounts-on-another-hard-drive thingy was impossible. Let’s first of all give him a big “DUH!!!”. Logging in to a user account stored on a server over a network has long been a basic feature of Unix systems. But does anyone remember the briefly publicized “Home on iPod” feature of Panther that never materialized? Let me point you to a couple articles for a refresher:

    link 1
    link 2

    The first link is especially enlightening. The feature was deemed to be not-ready-for-prime-time at that point, and then Jobs decided it was distracting and off-focus for a consumer entertainment device, and it also solved one of the equations for a successful tablet/enterprise device, so was tucked in his back pocket until the rest of the pieces for the tablet Mac came into place.

  8. Leo says:

    I don’t like the 7 inch screen. Make it 9 or 10 and i’m sold.

  9. Ethan says:

    Sounds like a little more than bull, but, sorry Doug, I gotta say its not 100%. Its not 80% there either.

    Things start to fall apart around the last 5 paragraphs of email 1. Its obvious Doug’s ideas aren’t very well thought out in those paragraphs and it looks as if he is thinking of new stuff as he writes.

    Worse is the idea that Apple would put an 8cm optical drive rather than a standard size drice in the dock. Doug, Doug, Doug! There’s nothing to even say about that. That’s insane.

    On battery life: Even if Apple does usually under-promise on battery life you wouldn’t expect Apple’s promised 5-8 hour battery life to be real-life 8-12 hour – Apple doesn’t under-promise that much. Doug does imply that this is speculation, but I would speculate 6-10 hours if apple said 5-8.

    All in all I believe Doug has some inside information, but he should not try to make his claims more believable with extra speculation. Just give the info as you get it Doug.

  10. Rabid Doug says:


    Ethan, Ethan, Ethan.

    READ THE LINKS I INCLUDED!!!!! Especially the one about the 8 cm optical drive, its a done deal.

    This isn’t possible or well thought out?????!!!!!!! Dude, have you heard of the iPhone???? This, from an engineering standpoint, is nothing but a larger iPhone, without the actual cellular phone components, and therefore much simpler to make a reality.

    And regarding Richard’s thoughts on 32GB or 64GB of NAND flash storage being unlikely, you realize 32GB versions are already available, right? And you can combine them internally, so a 64GB could be even four 16GB ones – these things are TEENY, check these links:…a-bit-of-skin/…heaper-faster/

    And them re-read the link I posted about Apple procurring long-term contracts for NAND from Samsung.


    Wake up, any moron should see this device coming from miles away.

    And the dock uses nothing but existing, off-the-shelf components. Joe Blow Technology Company Inc. could manufacture it tomorrow if they wanted.

    I am largely speculating on price, I admit. Also exact software specs.

    I think my later paragraphs are as erudite and well-composed as the early ones, but it was getting late when I wrote it.

    As far as battery life: whatever, not worth arguing about at this point.

    Keep the comments comin’! I love debunking them! In time, YOU ALL WILL EAT YOUR WORDS!!!!

  11. TIMSTIGATOR says:


  12. Ethan says:

    I did read the article, and I’m familiar with the patent application for the 8cm disk adapter. That doesn’t even begin to imply that Apple would sell a device that only accepts 8cm optical disks, even if it is just a dock. They simply want to be able to send smaller software boxes.

    I agree that the whole thing fits together very well. That doesn’t mean it is an upcoming product as you describe it. If you happen to have read my previous comments on this site about multi-touch from Apple you will see that I have thought a lot about the future of the interface*, so no I don’t think iPods and iPhones are as far as Apple with take multi-touch.

    Here’s where I stand in general on this: You’re right. Apple will release a tablet or primarily multi-touch platform, probably within the next 2 years. The device as you describe it, however, is just not that platform.

    I can’t discredit specific claims that you are making. I think many things you describe about the tablet will prove true of it (runs Windows, etc.), but as a whole your description just doesn’t sit well in my mind. Yes, this is only my opinion, especially since I can’t give much reason for it.

    *I don’t expect that you’ve read every comment, as I haven’t, but just in the event that you had read my comments on the issue.

  13. Rabid Doug says:


    Glad you did read the links, I just like yanking people’s chains. I respect what you have to say.

    But 2 years?? Remember, the iPhone shows the technology exists and can be mass-produced.

    And to TIMSTIGATOR:I’m 38 years old and own a small business and made over $100,000 last year and if this tablet doesn’t make the light of day soon I WILL EAT MY OWN HAT!!!!!!

  14. Timstigator says:

    Doug: thanks for letting me know how much you make. NOW GO SET UP YOUR ‘THON NETWORK. Geeeez. Get off your soapbox and get to work.

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