OWC, Axiotron reveal MacBook tablet

Other World Computing (OWC) and Axiotron have used Macworld Expo to publicly unveil the ModBook, a MacBook-based tablet computer that is expected to go on sale beginning in April, with prices starting at $2,279.

The companies start by taking a stock Apple MacBook and remove the screen and the top part of the MacBook’s case, including the keyboard. A new 13.3-inch widescreen LCD is installed as part of a chrome-plated magnesium top shell, turning the MacBook into a pen tablet-based computer.

All of the original MacBook’s capabilities are retained, according to the companies, and the ModBook is reversible to a stock MacBook if you wish, although Axiotron president Andreas Haas and OWC president Larry O’Connor suggest that they don’t expect too many buyers to request the reversal.

The ModBook includes an internal CD/DVD “Combo” drive and is upgradable to a CD/DVD burner with dual-layer burning capacity. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities are retained as well.

“The ModBook is 100 percent MacBook,” said Haas.

The ModBook leverages Inkwell, handwriting recognition software built in to Mac OS X Tiger. That’s complemented by Wacom’s “Penabled” hardware, which enables users to utilize gesture recognition and direct painting and drawing. A stylus is included, which is held within the case using a magnetic lock.

Because the stylus incorporates radio-based digitizer technology, it has considerably higher resolution than the ModBook’s screen itself, and can even be used by hovering the stylus slightly above the computer. It’s not a touch-sensitive display, however—a stylus is needed, you can’t use your finger.

The screen is covered with a layer of chemically treated glass that’s resistant to scratches and breaking, and is “coffee-proof,” according to Haas.

The ModBook retains the original iSight camera, which has been pivoted slightly so it’s pointed at the ModBook user’s face rather than up in the air. The ModBook also offers an optional Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna.

The ModBook is considerably more expensive than a stock MacBook, but O’Connor noted that if you compare “apples to apples,” it’s a good value compared to tablet PCs, which lack the same features as the MacBook, and don’t use the same Core 2 Duo processor as the MacBook, either.

Because such a change voids the standard Apple warranty, OWC provides a one year warranty itself. The company has no plans to offer a user-installable kit, at least for now.

OWC is offering special pricing through the end of the month—$2,199.

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