MacMost Now 193: Modbook Updates

In this MacWorld Expo special, take a look at the latest developments from Axiotron, the developers of the Modbook. A new version now has some touch as well as pen capability, and a new model will soon support MacBook Pros.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. While at MacWorld Expo this month, I caught up with Andreas from Axiotron and asked him about some developments with the ModBook.
So Axiotron will take a MacBook and make it into a tablet computer by laying a screen onto it and allowing you to draw on it with a pen with some professional software and all that.
They've had theirs out now since last year and they have some recent developments with software and some new hardware coming out as well.
So I'm here with Andreas from Axiotron and of course the makers of the ModBook and we talked to you guys last year and it's been a great year selling ModBooks over the last year. You've added some things to the current products, some software.
Andreas: Software and hardware as a matter of fact. The first thing that we added to the product is a Synergy Touch option; it will become available April 6th but you can pre-order it now already and get in line because every single time we introduce a new product -- well last time it took us a year to catch up with the backlog. But we're better now but get in line to get it early.
Gary: So it's basically -- you can do the tablet with the pen but you can also touch with your fingers?
Andreas: Yeah, the Synergy Touch from Axiotron is different from everything else you've seen on the market; we have a good chunk of patent claims on it. The common idea of using touch in the tablet is to replace the pen and switching back and forth between the two.
So for example you put the pen close to the screen, it recognizes that there's a pen, it switches off the touch. You take it off and now it's touch-sensitive. So you actually don't really get a new technology, you just get one that doesn't really work for one thing and you're replacing that with another.
So we believe in the pen as the ultimate user interface for our customers. So our Synergy Touch is supposed to simultaneously work with the pen as a support for the pen.
For example, we have some areas -- I'm showing you now how it's supposed to work if you are right-handed pen user. The left area has hot spots: one is at the bottom, the other one is at the top and then halfway through.
So let's say you're in Photoshop and you're having the paintbrush active and you want to switch to the eye dropper tool to pick up a color that is nearby and then keep painting. Well in our case what you now do is you touch the center and the menu drives out. Then you touch the shortcuts, that brings another screen up right next to it, translucent buttons. Then there's the alt key; you press the alt key down and that changes your mouse cursor from paintbrush to eyedropper tool. You pick up the color and you let go and you keep painting.
Gary: So it allows you to go through those things a lot faster than if you just had that one point.
Andreas: Absolutely.
Gary: Now the other thing a lot of people are asking is of course, instead of the white MacBooks which of course are going out, do you have something that's going to work with the new aluminum MacBook?
Andreas: Yes we do too. So for example we have our little Modbook Pro here. This is a take-apart version, meaning that the top part comes off. Let me just demonstrate what we did here.
One of the key challenges that we have with a MacBook is that it's based -- it's a half-body design, so we built half the body and the other half is coming from the base system, in this case the Apple MacBook.
What that also means is that our top design only works with a specific bottom design and if that product gets end of life or terminated, we don't really have something we can stick it to.
And it also means we are restricted in what we can do. We can't build the best tablet. What we can do here is we can turn an existing Mac into a tablet but it's not really the best tablet I can build.
For example, the pen is on this side not because I like it there but because I didn't have space anywhere else. So now what we did is, we changed into a multi-body design. We conceptually divided a Notebook into three sections: The top is what makes up the digitizer. Touch on the top, digitizer behind the screen, screen in the middle. This is what makes a tablet a tablet.
If Apple changes something down here, it's not going to affect my product up here.
Gary: So these are the insides of your 15 inch MacBook computer put into a new case?
Andreas: Exactly. You don't do it but our service providers do it. They take the motherboard out and they pop it back in. what you can see here is, conceptually this side is built into the center enclosure, that's the centerpiece, and this part here is built into the bottom piece.
So the battery and the disc drive are also separated from this part. Even if Apple terminates a product, the batteries are still there for a long time. So what is most likely to happen? Well, they may add a new couple of ports maybe or change the ports they have on it. Well, the [xx] are that the ports are behind it as part of this framing structure so I don't even have to touch the enclosure if they change something here. If they move some components of the motherboard around, they can just re-engineer the frame.
So the idea is, before Axiotron offered a conversion kit for a MacBook, that's what we had. Now Axiotron has a way of operating a 15 inch tablet computer no matter what happens to the Apple MacBook Pro base system and that is really the big thing here.
Gary: So when can we expect this model to be out?
Andreas: Well, at this point we are expecting to be able to ship this around May/June. We are confident that we can do this. This is why it's not tomorrow.
Gary: So what's the pricing going to be on this new one?
Andreas: The pricing, if you already have a MacBook Pro, it's going to cost you $3049 if you wait until May/June. If you pre-order it right now it's $2600 and you don't have to pay until we actually start shipping but you can get your place in line and a good price secured. And of course you have to add the MacBook Pro that you buy. So with $999 MacBook Pro you would be ending up with $4998. That would be the entry level with 2.4 Ghz.
Gary: And how about the Synergy? How much does that run?
Andreas: I don't know. The Synergy on the MacBook Pro is built in.
Gary: How about on the existing...?
Andreas: It's going to be $449 as an upgrade price and if you order it right now it's $299.
Gary: OK, that's upgrading your existing Modbook to a Synergy model?
Andreas: Right. If you buy a Modbook new know you would obviously want the Synergy, so you buy the Modbook and the Synergy, you put your name down for the Synergy, you play with it and you end up paying less money than if you wait four months until we're actually shipping it.
Gary: Great.
Andreas: We try to get the gadgets out and you start playing with them and as we deliver other ones you get to play some more.
Gary: Excellent. Well thank you very much.
Andreas: You're welcome, thank you.
Gary: You can find out more and all of the latest developments at axiotron.com. Until next time this is Gary Rosenzweig for MacMost Now.