Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

Summary: It's a rumor that I've been hearing for years, but a recent tweak to the Mac OS X UI (user interface), combined with other indicators, suggests that Apple is increasingly embracing touch and gestures and could be gearing up for a full-blown OS X tablet release.

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It's a rumor that I've been hearing for years, but a recent tweak to the Mac OS X UI (user interface), combined with other indicators, suggests that Apple is increasingly embracing touch and gestures and could be gearing up for a full-blown OS X tablet release.

Let's join the dots.

First off, there are the rumors. Now I don't put much stock into rumors, especially Apple-related rumors because a good 98% turn out to be nonsense, but the various noises I'm hearing from supply chain insiders, as well as insiders at Apple and other companies, seem to indicate that Apple does indeed have its sights set on a Mac OS X tablet. For example, a recent rumors that Apple was working on high-resolution tablet touchscreens fits in better with the idea of a Mac OS X tablet than iPad 2/3 simple because the OS could make better use of the improved resolution.

But what other evidence is there of an Apple tablet? Well, take a look at the work that Apple is doing now in hardware. Thinner and lighter is the mantra over at Cupertino, just what you'd want in a tablet running Mac OS X. Apple's acquisition of Liquidmetal Technologies fits in with the tablet model too. Then there's battery technology, which Apple is pushing hard in order to squeeze as much life out of a charge as possible. Even developments such as the smart case for the iPad 2 could cross over happily to a mac OS X tablet. 

Let's also remember that Apple has had a year to learn about how people use tablets and what people want of them thanks to the iPad going mass-market as rapidly as it did. This is valuable information that no other OEM has available to them and it makes sense that it will leverage this information in other products.

What else? Well, look at Apple's dabbling with touch on Mac OS X. Apple has already added extensive touch, multi-touch and gesture support to Mac OS X, albeit confined to the touchpad. These improvements would translate directly, and well, to a Mac OS X tablet. In the developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion' Apple has taken things a step further and added a very tabletesque feature called 'reverse scrolling.' This simply reverses the whole scrolling paradigm that mouse and touchpad users have grown accustomed to by moving the content in the direction of finger movement (something that will be familiar to iPad and iPhone users already).

Image courtesy of Tech-Recipes.com

This feature allows users to interact with the content on the screen in a touch-logical way. Today users will only be able to interact with the content in this way via the touchpad (which feels a little kludgy and counter-intuitive), but this would make a cracking UI feature for tablets.

But what about applications? One of the problems of taking a desktop OS and putting it on a tablet is that you're essentially taking an UI that's designed for use with a cursor or keyboard and trying to operate it with fingers instead. This works with some apps, but for others it quickly becomes tiresome. Enter Mac Apps. This new feature in Mac OS X paves the way for iOS-like apps on the OS. This would give users access to apps specifically designed for use with fingers.

Then there's simply the success of the iPad, and the invigoration of the tablet sector as a whole. Tablets are now the big thing, and Windows and Android hardware are joining iPads in the fight for consumer's (and enterprise's) cash. Microsoft is already saying that the next version of Windows "will look a lot different and it will run different applications" and keeps mentioning tablets a lot. Is Apple likely to allow Microsoft and its OEMs to define the full-OS tablet market? I don't know, but it would be silly to do so, and if Apple is looking to get a tablet out before Microsoft's OEMs have a chance, then that needs to happen in the next 12 to 15 months or so.

[poll id="605"]

Putting it all together, I think that it's a pretty sure bet that Apple is working on Mac OS X tablets. The way I see it such a product could be used to either augment or completely replace the existing MacBook Air offering. Yeah, it makes sense ...

[UPDATE: Here's an interesting Apple video from the 1990s showing pen tablets, mobile collaboration, search and so on ...

via Michael Gartenberg]

What do you think?

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets

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44 comments
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  • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

    OR they are actually going to make a touchscreen desktop as they put out a patent awhile back http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/apple-patents-a-desktop-touchscreen-computer/
    explodingwalrus
    • Correct; iMac will be transformable from vertical to horizontal position to

      @explodingwalrus: with just one finger move.

      And, most probably, users even might be be able to run some iPad applications in iPad emulator (part of XCode currently).

      But, of course, actual Macintosh applications will be updated to support both mouse and non-magic-mouse/non-touchpad direct multi-touch.
      DDERSSS
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        I have never understood why anyone would want a "touch enabled" desktop PC, no matter who manufactures said device. <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/essay/">essay writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/coursework/">Coursework Writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/assignment/">Assignment writing</a>
        jordanhawk
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        Users even might be be able to run some iPad applications in iPad emulator (part of XCode currently). <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/dissertation/">Dissertation Writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/thesis/">Thesis Writing</a>
        jordanhawk
    • Ergonomics?

      @explodingwalrus
      Even with the screen tilted as in the patent document, using touch on a large screen would be kind of fatiguing, wouldn't it? Touch works great on smaller hand-held stuff like phones and tablets, but a touch pad/mouse makes more sense for the larger screens.
      Userama
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @Userama agreed
        explodingwalrus
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @Userama

        Indeed. I have never understood why anyone would want a "touch enabled" desktop PC, no matter who manufactures said device.
        Hallowed are the Ori
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        [i]Indeed. I have never understood why anyone would want a "touch enabled" desktop PC, no matter who manufactures said device.[/i]

        Well considering you're still stuck in 1998, it's no surprise.
        anonymous
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @Userama Unless you're an artist (or architect) that works digitally that is. A touch screen would be a more intuitive approach to doing work, and the bigger (within reason ofcourse), the better. Eg. the coveted Cintiq tablet, which would be killed off if there were a mac tablet as is hinted at.
        zarkidtk
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      @explodingwalrus Is't the iPad a tablet?
      Socratesfoot
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @Socratesfoot I think a true tablet would have a lot more functionality and actually be useful for productive work. Something more than an iPad II but less than a laptop.
        donkeypunch69
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      @explodingwalrus
      joelkruissink@...
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @joelkruissink@...
        joelkruissink@...
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      @explodingwalrus
      WHY OR WHY NOT?
      MACBOOK IS A TRADITIONAL APPLICATION-CENTRIC PLATFORM. THE 'WHY' IS THAT FUNCTIONALITY IS MADE AVAILABLE THROUGH A GUI THAT REQUIRES TOOLS DEVELOPED 30 YEARS AGO. THE MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE WAS THE 'APPLICATION' A SOFTWARE FORM UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED.

      THE 'WHY NOT' REQUIRES YOU TO BE ABLE TO DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN THE SOFTWARE FORM CALLED THE 'APP'

      MS WORD IS AN EXAMPLE OF AN APPLICATION. FUNCTION AND FEATURE RICH IT OFFERS THE USER A MULT-FUNCTIONAL ENVIRONMENT CAPABLE OF EXTENSIVE COMPUTER TYPOGRAPHICAL OUTPUT

      MOST USERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LESS THAN 10% OF THE APPLICATION'S POWER.

      THE FUNDAMENTAL ARCHITECTURAL TRAIT OF AN APP IS THAT IT DOES NOT ASPIRE TO PROVIDE THE ARCHITECTURAL TRAIT OF AN APPLICATION.

      APP.

      LOOK AT YOUR IPHONE. THE GUI STILL USES ICONIC REPRESENTATION. INVOKING THE APP USES AN ARCHITECTURAL TECHNIQUE THAT INVOLVES THE USE OF 'GESTURES'.

      POINT AND CLICK VS GESTURES. APPLICATIONS VS APPS

      TO PERFORM TYPOGRAPHICAL ACTIONS, AN APP WILL TEND TO FOCUS ON ACTIONS THAT ARE SIMPLE, COMMON AND TIGHTLY FOCUSED.

      CREATING A MESSAGE FOR SIMPLE CROSSTALK DOES NOT REQUIRE FONT LIBRARIES, H&J, STYLES EMBEDDED IN WORD

      TO EMANCIPATE THE MACBOOK USER FROM THE CONSTRAINING WORLD OF APPLICATIONS, ADD APPS CAPABILITIES.

      OSX 7 PROMISES IOS FUNCTIONALITY. THE NEW MACBOOK EXTENDS THE TRACKPAD TO GESTURES.

      THE NEXT LEVEL IS THE SOLVING THE FORM FACTOR PROBLEM. ACTUALLY MAC-BOOKS AND I-PODS HAVE A SOMEWHAT SIMLAR FORM FACTOR ISSUE.

      NEITHER HAS FF FLEXIBILITY. FF FLEXIBILITY IS THE NEXT GREAT TECHNOLOGY / MARKET BREAKTHROUGH. LET'S TRY OLEDS.

      MY EXMPLE/ PROOF-CASE IS APPS THAT REPLACE OR AUGMENT I-LIFE / I-WORK APPLICATIONS.

      JK
      joelkruissink@...
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      This works with some apps, but for others it quickly becomes tiresome. Enter Mac Apps. This new feature in Mac OS X paves the way for iOS-like apps on the OS. This would give users access to apps specifically designed for use with fingers. <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/essay/">essay writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/coursework/">Coursework Writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/assignment/">Assignment writing</a>
      jordanhawk
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      And, most probably, users even might be be able to run some iPad applications in iPad emulator (part of XCode currently). <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/dissertation/">Dissertation Writing</a> | <a href="http://www.writinghelp.co.uk/thesis/">Thesis Writing</a>
      jordanhawk
  • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

    An OSX tablet locked down with the Mac App store is probably what's next!
    jatbains
    • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

      @jatbains surely..that's just..an ipad?
      explodingwalrus
      • RE: Is Apple planning a Mac OS X tablet? Yes, almost certainly ...

        @explodingwalrus

        Not necessarily. It's probably something pore along the lines of an "iPad Pro", and could be what's rumored as the iPad3.

        You'd have the traditional iPad that was consumer focused , driven by iOS and subsequent App Store, and then the iPad Pro that was business oriented, driven by OSX and the Mac App Store (different store for different type of applications).
        Caffeinated85
  • The answer to the Max OS tablet possibility:

    Maybe at some point but not anytime soon (this year). It won't replace the Air in any case.
    Mac Hosehead