RUMOR: Ultra Portable Macs? SPECULATION: Is it the next iMac?

new_imac.jpg Rumors were flying earlier this year about the possibility of Apple releasing an Ultra-portable Mac at Macworld 2007. The topic was brought up again on the Mac Roundtable Podcast this week, and it got me thinking. While I don’t think we’ll be seeing one at Macworld ’07 (I think the iTV and the iPhone will be quite enough for one event), I do think ultra-portable Macs are in Apple’s future. The real question is not so much, “will we see them” as it is, “why do we need them”?

I mean, seriously, the 13-inch Macbook is already pretty darn portable. Plus, price is an issue. Most of the ultra-portable PCs that have been released so far on the Windows side of things have been as expensive, if not more so, than their Notebook counterparts. So exactly how would an ultra-portable Mac benefit us, and what purpose would it serve?

Well, an ultra-portable Mac could be the next generation of the iMac.

How?

Let me explain…

If you look at the iMac’s evolution, the machine has been constantly evolving…getting smaller every 2 or 3 years. The current version of the iMac is essentially a monitor on a stand with everything built inside it. It is an amazing piece of design and engineering…but if it was just a little bit slimmer…and weighed just a little bit less…it would be an ultra-portable Mac.

An ultra-portable (as they’ve existed so far) tend to look like a tablet PC with no keyboard, or a tiny (and usually useless) mini keyboard tacked on somewhere. With Apple’s design history it’s very unlikely that any ultra-portable from the company is going to have the same type of mini keyboard interface…but imagine an ultra-portable Mac that you could take around the house with a tablet-like interface, and an on screen keyboard for typing in URLs and for chatting. You could take it wherever you needed to go…and when you were home and not using it, it could sit on a dock at your desk, charging. Sitting in front of that dock? A wireless mouse and keyboard…and you have a full desktop system, that isn’t all the different from a current iMac set up. In this way it could be a complete desktop replacement, perfect for any typical desktop use.

The iMac is due for a new design (based on Apple’s previous design cycles for the product), and an innovation of this kind is the next logical step for the iMac in my opinion.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. Sounds more like an iPod with a bluetooth keyboard to me. If the “big” iPod had more of a robust OS, then the iPod will have become a Little Mac.

    And a Little Mac could punch the lights out of most any PC. :)

  2. j2d2 -

    I get what you’re saying, but I’m imagining this thing running full OS X.

    I actually think it’s closer to a PADD from Star Trek (which I guess most tablet PCS are) than an iPod.

  3. The Wizard says:

    Dear sir/Michael

    Well, you are kind of dropping something here as a standalone apple (mac) computer taht Apple have missed for the last four years. And instead of giving it its credit you are kind of (unconciously) mingling it with an existing mac (category) as if Apple would never tip its feet in that area.

    By that product (category) dear sir I mean a dedicated “Mac Tablet”. Not a mac “book” and not a desktop replacement iMac based model.

    Yes I think Apple is supposed to start developing a new category to their line of (portables/ hopefuly ultraportables) by releasing a Mac Tablet line. It’s about time. It’s a new platform that needs some attention/innovation from Apple. I think tat they will excel in that arena and that they will revolutionize this line of products.

    As for your concept of ultra-portable-ness. You clearly consider a 5.2 pounds MacBook an ultraportable. Sir, with all due respect it’s not even portable. You can never comfortably use that in a moving car or bus with tight space plus with that weight/heat you would never be comfortable unless checking your mail in a hurry but sorry, no real work done here.

    I own an Acer TM 3002 12.1” with 3.2 pounds of weight and a sweet $1499 price tag. Believe me at this form factor it’s worth every dollar invested (and it’s pretty cheap as you can see).

    Yes dear sir, apart from the tablet concept (for which we have seen a recent patent from Apple by the way) I think that the mac notebook line needs to get at least 2 pounds lighter. This will appeal to a broad sector of consumers especially developers and journalists and anyone who has to work on the weekend and on vacations (and I mean real work).

    FYI, I have an iBook (12” of course) that’s lighter than this 13” macbooks and still it’s much less comfortable to use than my 12” Acer.

    And FYI too, I have been waiting for over a year and half now for an ultraportable MacBook and I still have faith in Apple that this day will come and that they will deliver a product much needed by a broad sector of consumers.

    So let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    Thanks for your patience to reach that line :-)

  4. Since we’re speculating… Any chance this is related to the recent “slider” stripes patent for the new video iPod? Why not a bigger video iPod or a Portable iTV with a screen and a large flash drive? Seems to me that Apple’s biggest commercial success has been the iPod/FrontRow UI due to it’s simplicity so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. The whole thing could probably be kept under 2 pounds if those former Sony engineers get their hands on it.

  5. While it is true that the iMac has gotten thinner, keep in mind that the screen size has gotten bigger. They no longer even have the 15″ iMac. And seeing as they just introduced a 24″ iMac, I don’t see how they’re going to bring out an ultra portable *and* call it an iMac…

  6. You (intentionally?) left out the class convertible of Tablet PCs which are simply notebooks with flip around screens. Nice try to characterize Tablet PCs in a negative way so when Apple comes out with their Tablet PC it will be the coolest thing since sliced bread despite Microsoft having had Tablet PCs on the market for years. I personally can’t wait for the Newton excuse to say Apple really had them first. If anything is going to evolve into a Tablet PC it’s going to be the iBooks because they are light enough to fit the bill.

  7. I think rendering the iMac into a portable would really confuse a lot of customers. But, I do think that we might see a non-portable touchscreen iMac in the next few years.

    However, I think it’s more likely that Apple will use the rumored “touch screen iPod” to gauge people’s reactions for a possible tablet computer.

    Hrmph.com has written extensively about Apple’s touchscreen/tablet related patents. And, I have a little roundup of many of Apples Touchscreen and Tablet related patents in this post: called Apple’s Touchscreen Ambitions.

  8. This is in additional support of the comment by “Wizard”. I am personally looking forward to really ultraportable Mac and likely won’t own Mac except in that form. Reason: for last 6 yrs I “live off” ultraportables. There is a class of users who see the real life advantage from them. Presently I use Fujitsu Lifebook P7010. Its size: 10.6″screen and 3 lbs weight. That for me qualifies as the “ultraportable”. Unlike “Wizard” I wouldn’t consider anything over 11″ screen as ultraportable. Or over 3.5 lbs. On the PC side there are few (Sony, Fujitsu, Panasonic) making such machines. I presently use dual boot Linux/Win, but with well powered Mac I could have Mac OS and Parallels for Win and Linux (and I would buy it if it met my needs). I wouldn’t buy just a tablet. I write a lot of programs and scientific papers (yes, on sub-11″ keyboard which is just fine – it is huge misconception that you must have “full sized” keyboard.) and keyboard is must. As is all what I already have in 3 lbs of the Fujitsu: wired/wireless LAN, DVD burner, USB/Firewire, universal card reader (SD/Sony…), great A/V and great battery life… Year and half ago I paid close to 2000$ for Fujitsu. Approximate price point for my future ultraportable, be it Mac or else… And I would really like such Mac.

  9. Hmmm… I don’t think an ultra portable should have anything to do with the iMac… I envision is more as a tablet… a large iPod-like device but not and iMac…

    Dave

  10. I spend a lot of time reading PDFs, DOCs, and the web. I’d love to have a device that is essetially just a screen capable of being oriented either portrait or landscape to view those things. I don’t need all the things of a computer – processing, etc – I’m really thinking of an iPod for documents: you load it up from your computer, and it is just a display device.

  11. What Elliot said. But give it wi-fi connectivity and a touch-screen. So I can read online mags, blogs, newspapers etc, with as much ease as I would their print counterparts.

  12. What you’re describing already exists in the Windows world. You basically just want it to run OSX right?

    I would welcome an Apple tablet/UMPC. It might interest me enough to learn Mac development and it would provide some much needed competition in the pen computing arena and inspire some new innovation on both sides.

  13. Hey Josh -

    If an ultra portable that you can dock to your desk and have function as a full desktop PC already exists in the Windows world then yes, that’s exactly what I want, but with OSX.

    I would even consider buying a Windows one for a second home PC. Can you point me to a link to one?

  14. I really wonder if Apple is considering of coming out with the new series of ultra portable macbook or macbook pro like the previous powerbook G4 12 inch.

    The current macbook is still relatively heavy compare to the rest of the ultra portable laptop available in the market like Sony which is less that 1.8 kg.

    Well lets see if Apple is gonna give a BIG suprise with Lepoard or a disappointment coz I am really waiting for a ultraportable mac instead of getting another Ultra Portable PC.

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