Long before the iPad, the late, great ModBook was made by converting MacBook laptops into touch-screen tablets. Now it's back in a new version, the Modbook Pro.
Years before the iPad was a twinkle in Apple's eye, there was a short-lived Apple OS X tablet. It wasn't from Apple, but instead a company called Axiotron, which took stock 13-inch white polycarbonate MacBooks, deconstructed them, and put them back together as bulky touch-screen tablets.
The original ModBook and Axiotron are long gone, but a new company, called Modbook Inc. and founded by one of the original ModBook tablet's designers, is ready to give it another shot.
The new product is the Modbook Pro, and the company calls it "the world's most powerful and largest-screen tablet computer." Like the original ModBook, the Modbook Pro is based on a rebuilt Apple laptop. In this case, it's the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The basic concept is the same: the new tablet takes a MacBook, removes the keyboard, flips the screen around over the chassis base, and adds a digitizer to the screen. Modbook describes the process:
The Modbook Pro enclosure conversion kit incorporates and completely encases the original hardware of a new Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-inch base system running OS X Mountain Lion. In addition, the Modbook Pro contains a state-of-the- art digitizer from the industry leader in pen tablet technology, Wacom, offering 512 levels of pen pressure sensitivity -- more than any other tablet computer on the market. And the Modbook Pro's pen interface features tough and scratch-resistant ForceGlass, providing an etched, paper-emulating drawing and writing surface.
I recall the original ModBook fondly, and this new model may fill a similar niche for users who want the full power of OS X combined with the tactile response of a tablet. Reviewing the ModBook in 2008, I said:
It's a clever bit of engineering, taking the guts of a MacBook and removing the lid, omitting the keyboard and trackpad, replacing the display with a Wacom-enabled LCD and digitizer, and adding a scratch-resistant magnesium shell to the top....But unlike convertible tablet PCs, it lacks a keyboard and even the most basic of tablet functions, a rotating screen orientation, so you're stuck in landscape mode -- which is somewhat awkward when cradling it in your arm.
Besides these few details and a couple of concept photos, there's not much to go on to judge the new Modbook Pro by yet. The company says pricing will be announced in the coming weeks, and systems are expected to ship in the early fall.