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Apple Mac touch: what it could look like

A reader, Brendan Sheehan of Ireland, has written to Architosh about our recent article on the future of Apple in 2008. He too had an Mac touch computer notion and sent us the picture below

Architosh reader Brendan Sheehan has put together a thoughtful artistic rendering of a possible future Apple Mac touch. That’s the product name. The Mac touch would carry not only the signature naming convention but its “multi-touch” interface technology.

Because it is a Mac, not an iPod, the Mac touch would be a new type of Mac computer whose primary interface methodology would be centered around Apple’s innovative Multi-touch technology. Brendan argues that a tablet is an obvious direction for Apple and that a convertible type of unit “doesn’t seem very Apple like.” We can’t argue with that.

One reader's vision of what a Mac touch would look like, pictured here next to Black Mac Book

One reader's vision of a Mac touch

Brendan swears the Mac touch idea was developed in his mind weeks ago and sent an email to a friend about it. Included were some very reasonable specs, including the use of solid state storage memory (64GB to 128GB), an included stylus for more intricate work (think of a new technical drawing program in iWork), a dock that works with iTunes, and WiFi and built in iSight camera.

Flushing out the Mac touch

Since Brendan started this ball rolling with his imageand imaginary spec sheet, we might want to elaborate a bit more.

The Mac touch is a full Multi-touch Mac with a modified OS X operating system. It’s primary CPU would be Intel-based, not ARM-based, though it may contain both ARM and ATi secondary processing units.

In particular, ATi may be tapped for its expertise in not just graphics processing units but OpenGL and OpenGL ES. Think of the Mac touch as a field Mac in industries like engineering, medicine, architecture, science and construction. With the included stylus or just your finger the Mac touch would be a wonderful drawing tool, like the old Newton was.

Media Infused Teens and the Nurse

In our crystall bar article, slanted towards the reasonable and the known, we emphasized consumer computing as the place where the leading edge now exists and just how important entertainment (digital forms) is in our life styles.

Unlike Brendan we don’t see the need for the Mac touch to have a dock to iTunes. It would contain the same technology that is built into theAppleTV and obtain all forms of media via iTunes through a WiFi connection. This is a device that would be designed to sit like a digital picture frame on the bedroom nightstand when not in use. It would display pictures from iPhoto in a semi-sleep mode. It would act like a clock if you wanted it to and could wake you and display your iCal calendar first thing in the morning.

The problem with tablet computers thus far is that they have tended to want to be full laptop replacements, rather than looking at how such a form factor can tackle new functional needs. The key function that splits the domains of use of tablets versus laptops is the need to seriously type. And because typing is a key function with general business domains, tablet PCs have not taken off in the enterprise.

However, a light-weight and inexpensive digital slate device like the Mac touch could serve many industries extremely well where typing is not a dominant function. The defunct Newton MessagePad became a popular device in many such fields, from the greeters at Disneyland to doctors and nurses in hospitals around the world.

At the the same time, media-centric users don’t need to type like business people either. A teenager would use a Mac touch to interact with Facebook, listen to iTunes music or watch an iTunes streamed movie and IM all at the same time — all from a position on their bed or the couch that is anything but ergonomically orthodox. A virtual keyboard like that in the iPhone will suffice just fine for these two branches of users.

In short the Mac touch could serve two very different audience segments with the same set of technology virtues. As a media viewing extension of Apple’s iTunes and AppleTV intiatives the Mac touch provides unique value. And because it can be cheap enough, light enough and because Multi-touch and OS X rock as platform technologies, the Mac touch could become a technology staple in industries such as medicine and construction.

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