Other World Computing (long-time Mac-centric distributor and reseller) and a company called Axiotron will announce the Axiotron ModBook on January 9th. Although they aren't showing what the unit looks like, the product will be a true tablet with built in handwriting recognition, iSight Camera, CD/DVD combo drive, and GPS (!). It's supposed to be housed in a magnesium alloy shell 'for all terrain use'. OWC will be the exclusive retailer, while Axiotron will make the product.
The Axiotron home page gives a bit more revealing image of this product. Sort of. It also provides more detail absent from the OWC site in their press release. The ModBook uses Wacom's Penabled hardware for pen input with Apple's Inkwell handwriting recognition. (Does that actually work?) There doesn't seem to be any info on what Intel chips will be used, nor any other features, such as hard drives or memory. There is a bit more info on the GPS, and it seems to be an optional feature.
I'm not sure what to say.
First, it's hard to believe this product will be very compact, given all that's stuffed into it. Or very lightweight, give the magnesium housing. (Why not high impact plastic?!) In fact, the form factor is described as 'condensed' and 'slim'. My fears are a MacBrick crammed into a heavier case...
Second, you have to wonder if it will be all that slick or elegant or functional. Apple generally devotes quite a bit to styling and functionality in their products. One wonders if a small company can do this product justice.
Third, I wonder how Apple will react to the commercial retailing of their products in modified form. Will they stymie it somehow? One could hope that they would squish the ModBook by releasing a real Apple tablet. I sort of remember the MacPortables causing some sort of legal stir a while back, though the details escape me.
Fourth, this would likely be quite expensive, given the hardware and engineering involved.
I admit I'm attracted to any small form factor Mac. If these guys can pull it off, and it's functional, it could be interesting.
In the least, it might spur Apple to consider alternative platforms more seriously.
Looks like we will have to wait until 2:30pm on 9 January (California time) to find out.
(Thanks to O'Reilly Mac DevCenter for the scoop.)