Rumored 12-inch 'MacBook' could be an iPad convertible

Rumored 12-inch 'MacBook' could be an iPad convertible

Summary: A financial analyst predicts that Apple will release a 12-inch Retina MacBook in mid-2014, but I think that it could be a larger iPad with a detachable keyboard.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Apple
41
Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 09.19.12
(Image: Apple)

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac) predicts that Apple will release several new products in mid-2014, including a 12-inch MacBook with Retina Display in an entirely new form factor. The theory sounds plausible; Apple is always exploring new hardware designs and probably has a MacBook in every screen size imaginable somewhere in its labs. 

But consider the rumors of a larger, 12.9-inch iPad that began making the rounds via Korean site ETNews.com in early August. What if both are actually the same rumor? Pictured above is an artist's rendition of a 12.9-inch iPad (left), next to the current 9.7-inch iPad and 7.9-inch iPad mini, courtesy of MacRumors.

Could 2014 be the year that Apple finally takes the wraps off its first convertible notebook? Imagine a 12-inch iPad as the display and a detachable Bluetooth keyboard that "converts" it into a MacBook. When connected, they're a traditional "notebook" computer, but for light duty the "screen" could be detached and used as a stand-alone iPad. 

It's not as far fetched as you might think. The real question is which operating system would it run? My guess is that we could finally see OS X and iOS morph into a new hybrid OS in 2014, let's call it "Apple OS," or "aOS" for short. 

Convertible notebooks consisting of a computer with a detachable tablet/screen have been around on Windows for years. The hybrid design offers the benefits of both a tablet/touch interface and a traditional menu/window interface and has been recently popularized by Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface hardware.

So why doesn't Apple release a convertible?

The cynical part of me thinks that Apple would rather you purchase both a MacBook Air (or even better, a MacBook Pro) and an iPad. The rational part of me thinks that Apple has largely stayed out of the convertible notebook space because it hasn't nailed the user experience yet and because convertibles are generally compromise machines. They're not great notebooks and they're not great tablets.

Notebooks have compromises (price, weight) and tablets do too (CPU power, lack of keyboard and mouse) and when you attempt to combine the best of both you also inherit the worst of both. Look at the reviews of the original Surface RT and Surface Pro. The former was sluggish, clunky and lacking apps (I returned mine), and the latter was expensive and lacking in battery life. 

After taking a $900M write down because of unsold Surface RTs, Microsoft seems to have made significant improvements to the Surface RT 2 and Surface Pro 2, available October 22, but the jury is still out on them.

Could Apple be letting Microsoft do its convertible R&D for them? There is a distinct "second mover" advantage and Apple's famous for not jumping into something new because it's popular (NFC comes to mind). You'd be foolish to believe that Apple isn't keeping a very close eye on Surface. In fact, I'm sure that Apple tears apart each model shortly after it ships. 

The issue with an Apple convertible comes down to the operating system. Apple ships the iPad with iOS and MacBooks with OS X and to date, the two haven't come together. They're two dramatically different operating systems, iOS is a touch-based, single window OS with no visible file system, while OS X has windows, true multitasking and is keyboard and mouse driven UI. There's no question that Apple could merge iOS and OS X into a single "Apple OS," but it would need to be optimized for its Ax line of processors and meet a higher standard of battery life (at least 10 hours).

Will Apple finally combine its desktop and mobile operating systems in 2014? Only Cupertino knows for sure, but I bet that Apple takes a page out of Microsoft's book before 2014 is out. 

Topics: Mobility, Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

41 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • To but it

    Only oilfield owners need apply.
    Alan Smithie
  • ‘Toaster and a Refrigerator’

    who said that...
    Mr.SV
    • Cook backtrack

      They're backtracking on everything they said because they're running out of ideas. See larger iPhone.
      Dreyer Smit
      • Um, you do realize

        That this is just a rumor and will almost certainly be just as accurate as the budget iPhone and Apple branded TV rumors were.
        baggins_z
        • No, of course he doesn't

          .DeusExMachina.
  • Rumour has it

    Here we go, the same person probably who predicted the iWatch, iTV, iGlasses and now this? An entirely new form factor? What would that look like?
    Dreyer Smit
    • It's all myth and speculation at this point.

      Depending on the rumor you want to believe, at 12.9 or 12.0 inches, this seems more likely to be a MacBook Air refresh than a clam shell iPad. The point of iPads is to be lighter and more portable than a laptop or ultrabook. An "iPad Air" would fall into the space between the MacBook Air and an iPad. If they were to do an "iPad Air," I would expect the screen to be more in the 10-11 inch range, rather than nearly 13 inches. What I mean is, I don't see the iPad becoming an ultrabook when they already sell one in the MacBook Air.
      BillDem
    • Apple would just be copying ASUS

      ASUS has the most successful hybrid tablet line of any company. They were the first to introduce this form factor and have done it the best. Their Transformer Pad Infinity is their best Android tablet and they've also introduced a full fledge Windows versions too. The latest being the Transformer Book 100 which runs Windows 8.1, costs $350, and has an optional keyboard dock.
      laequis
      • Two other things that Apple would have to copy...

        from Android and Windows so that they can introduce a hybrid tablet. First, is the ability of the iOS to replicate a cursor on the iPad's screen. Without that, keyboard usability is crippled just like the current bluetooth keyboards out their for the iPad. Second, iOS would have to have a good file manager. Without that, again, usability is crippled if you plan for it to work as a laptop replacement.

        Apple would have to run MacOS X on the iPad for these two things to happen.
        laequis
  • An iPad Surface knock off will validate the Surface

    Steve repudiated, Bill vindicated.
    Heresy I say heresy, Steve will rise from the dead to smite the Apple Offenders of such an abomination. :-)
    greywolf7
    • It is getting close to Halloween. Steve could rise from the grave.

      And smite the unholy heretics. But personally, I just think those are ghoulish rumors. :)
      kenosha77a
    • Or replace it

      It won't validate the surface, it would show how poorly the surface was produced, if apple puts out a convertible, you can be sure it will be far more functional than the current attempts at such a device.
      epconner
  • I actually feel that the rumored next 12" MacBook Air

    will finally showcase Apple's investment in Liquidmetal tech. Using that material would enable the rumored "thinner" clamshell case design. Plus, IGZO display tech is long overdue for inclusion in an Apple product.

    The year 2014 is shaping up to be a really nice product year for Apple.
    kenosha77a
    • +1

      I would trade my 11" MBA and get that one, if it runs on OSX with liquid metal touch and thinner clam shell.
      Ram U
  • Compromises

    There is not a device made that doesn't have compromises. That you hold biases for one or the other is just what you know. If there are significant use cases for both or multiple modes then compromises become optimizations. In the event of few use cases like with the amphibious car, there is not enough demand for the driving in water use case to make it viable. In the cases where you have to carry two devices or one optimized for two use cases there seems to be mounting evidence that there is enough demand for this form factor. Time will tell, some will probably prefer two devices others will likely opt for one.
    greywolf7
  • Only Microsoft thinks tablets

    Are laptops. Or that you should combine a wimp and touch interface. And we can all see how successful that's been for them. You don't copy failure.
    baggins_z
    • There is no one perfect device for everyone

      Choice may not be something common in the land of Apple products, but not everyone wants to run two completely different operating systems on two computers in order to have a full computing experience.

      There was a time when people said Cell phones could not do things that other devices do, like play games, web surf, gps, camera, music, etc.

      Convergene is coming and I am 100% sure you will be cheering Apple when they show their plan, despite how similar it is to everything else.
      Emacho
      • people were right

        Cell phones can't.

        But pocketable computers can do what cellphones did - make phone calls.
        danbi
    • ASUS Transformer hybrid devices are the best

      The line of ASUS Transformer hybrid tablets are the best on the market. They've been very successful and much better than the Surface tablets.

      The best hybrid tablet with keyboard dock is the ASUS Transformer Infinity.
      laequis
    • I'm sitting with compromises every day...

      I love my Blackberry Z10 for work as it's less hassle than secure app and passwords every time I want to use email or do something with docs (my iphone 5c is a pain in that respect), then again I choose to use the 5c outwith the office and separate my worklife.

      I love my ipad mini BUT it's rubbish for connecting back to my desktop (no mouse support), and I hate the hassle of getting movies onto it. Thus I use my Asus Transformer on the road as it gives me access to USB/SD/Mouse/keyboard and I can watch films without converting them to an Apple format.

      None of my Apple gear does it all and I'd be hard pressed to actually choose one particular vendor. In steps MS with their new tech and lets be serious, forget the tablet aspect for a moment; limit our thoughts to desktop and laptop and it's already a winner. Add the basics of the tablet revolution and there is no question it makes absolute sense. Most folk are happy with Skype, internet, and a handful of apps. (Yes the kids have a 101 games but they will work on a cheap Android device just as well).

      My next move..... Happy with Windows 8 but will look at Pro2 hardware when it's out, particularly for one of our older PC replacements. I don't like laptops and wouldn't own another... but the pro2 covers desktop/laptop.

      And as I'm about to upgrade the standalone in-car DVD player for the kids it makes far more sense to look at two half decent Android tablets for them, with all their needs, and use them in the car and in the house. Ones with SD access of course, and MX player.

      Sorted... At a fraction of the price, and without needing to think about a MacBook or another ipad to sit in my bag. I want touch on everything..... and this current plan is looking good to me.
      johnmckay