The other day I wrote that I was seriously considering the purchase of a Cintiq so I could draw directly on the screen. Then I read about the Modbook, a new computer unveiled today at the Macworld Expo conference. It’s not sold by Apple, but it is a Mac. Made by Other World Computing, the Modbook appears to be a Macbook laptop that has been converted into a tablet computer.
It’s got everything a MacBook would have, except the screen is where the keyboard and mousepad should be. I phoned the company and was told that if you want to use a keyboard and mouse, you have to provide them yourself and then plug them in to one of the USB ports. This seems a little bizarre to me, but if I can draw on the screen I almost don’t care. For only a little more money than a Cintiq monitor, I could have what is essentially a smaller, portable Cintiq that is also a fully-functioning computer.
The Modbooks won’t ship until March or April, but hopefully there will be some demo models reviewed on the internet before then. Apple products generally consist of very sophisticated technology and high quality materials, so the thought of someone cutting apart and rebuilding a MacBook makes me shudder a bit. But from the detailed description on the Modbook website, this looks like more than just a hacked-up Mac sold out of some back-alley chop shop. It seems they’ve taken great care to make this a durable, quality machine. They’ve even re-mounted the iSight camera so that it will point directly at the user if he is lying the Modbook flat on his desktop. And they’ve installed an optional GPS capability, something regular Macs don’t have (although why I would need that is a puzzle). It comes with a one-year warranty that can be extended to three years, just like a regular Mac. And the pen/screen interface is designed by Wacom, the same people who make the Cintiq, including low-glare glass that is specially textured to feel like paper. So one can assume that an artist could do some pretty nice drawings with this machine.
If the Modbook turns out to be as good as I hope it is, I will almost certainly buy one.
EDIT: Before I get too excited, I’m going to have to think harder about the missing keyboard thing. When I draw with my Wacom tablet, I still use a lot of keyboard shortcuts (to change tools, resize brushes, rotate and transform, etc.) because keyboard shortcuts are much faster than drag-and-click menus. One of the main reasons I want a tablet computer is to increase my speed/efficiency, but the lack of a keyboard might seriously slow me down. Then again, maybe I could navigate drop-down menus faster with a stylus than I can with a mouse or trackpad? Makes me wish there was a demo model somewhere here in Minnesota that I could play around with.