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The MacPad:How Apple Could Make a Real Netbook Killer



Steve Jobs has repeatedly said that Apple will not produce a netbook, but Apple could really shake up the market if it were to introduce something similar to the Lenovo U1 Hybrid/LePad. The Lenovo device, which may never actually come to the U.S., is a great concept. The tablet portion is geared for consuming media via a touch interface, while the base station has enough horsepower to run Windows 7.

Apple’s holding a Mac event this Wednesday and there are rumors that Apple will be reincarnating the MacBook  Air as an 11.6 incher. Making a device that’s even more portable than the MacBook Air would be a good move for Apple. But Apple could really shake up the marketplace if it simply took a page out of Lenovo’s playbook and created a system similar to to Lenovo’s U1 Hybrid/LePad.

The MacPad

Apple could probably sell millions of iPad docking stations. They base portion of the MacPad would consist of a keyboard, battery and all the guts necessary to run OSX. Think of it as a miniature, headless MacBook. It could be sold on its own and buyers would have to bring their own iPads.

One of the most expensive and energy hungry components of a portable computers is the display. When unplugged from a power outlet, the processor, drive and other internal components would draw power form the battery in the bottom of the machine, while the iPad would draw on its own internal battery. It’d be realistic to see 12 or more hours of battery life out of a system like this. Want to really stretch the battery life to something like 20 hours? Simply switch over to the iPad’s operating system while docked and use the docking station’s battery and keyboard.

When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, he explained that Apple would not sell laptops with tiny keyboards or any of the other compromises commonly found on netbooks. While the iPad’s display would be on the small side, the bezel and the necessary shell that would hold it in place would add enough real estate to hide a keyboard larger than those found on 10″ netbooks.

Another thing Jobs mentioned was that he didn’t want to sell an ultraportable with crappy graphics or a processor that couldn’t run real apps. Apple could simply borrow most of the guts from its 13″ MacBook. A decent Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM and a 2.5″ hard drive. OSX could tap into the iPad’s 3G signal if present.

Apple sells its MacBook for $999, but if it dumped the display and optical drive it might get the price of the MacPad down to about $700. That might sound expensive, but Apple and its customers do an unbelievable job of justifying high prices. Some would look at the MacPad as saving them from having to buy a smaller MacBook, such as a MacBook Air. Others would look at it as only costing a little more than buying a netbook. A lot of Apple fans would snatch up a MacPad docking station without thinking too much about value.

I think it’s much more likely for Apple to introduce something lime an 11.6″ or 12.5″ version of the MacBook Air this week than something like the MacPad. But if Apple does introduce something like what I’ve described above, there are going to be a few million iPad owners who’ll put it on the top of their wish lists.



  1. aftermath

    10/18/2010 at 2:23 pm

    “Another thing Jobs mentioned was that he didn’t want to sell an ultraportable with crappy graphics or a processor that couldn’t run real apps.”

    Hopefully Steve never compares his 10 inch slate to a 10 other 10 inch netbooks and slates, unless by “real apps” he meant real “apps” and not real software applications.

  2. Synergi

    10/18/2010 at 3:28 pm

    I know Apple is already making boatloads, but they are leaving serious money on the table. I love your MacPad idea. I still think most people want one device and not five. I have an iPad, and a MacBook so I could see something like the MacPad being useful. Especially once the new displays hit next iPad’s.

    I wish Apple would give a pen option. Us note takers and artists and anyone else that like a bit more precission is over looked. I’m still waiting for a Windows 7 slate with the iPad’s form factor. If, Apple gave it a pen I might be a lot more willing to work with pages, or other note takers and lose my OneNote fantasies on a slate like this. In the mean time my Tc1100 will have to do.

    Speaking of OneNote, I made a YouTube video showing it on my iPad through a remote desktop. The quality of the video isn’t that great though. Just search for OneNote iPad if anyone cares to see it. Inking is terrible but typing was totally usable.

  3. dstrauss

    10/18/2010 at 5:48 pm

    The MacPad idea is an awesome thought, but I just can’t see them doing it with the current generation iPad – to “kludgy” for Jobs & Co. The next generation, if “flatter” as rumored (rather than curved back) would be a more likely starting point. Personally, I think Apple is going to start a true split in its OS, with “beefier” iPads and even MacBook Airs using just iOS with its plug & play App oriented structure (in other words min-applications for targeted needs), and reserve the big iron for the Mac Pro and upper end MacBooks for us Apeture Pro/CS5/Autocad/Office crowd of power users. If they upgrade the iPad iWork apps to 100% Office compatibility, they will rule teh space.

    • Xavier Lanier

      10/18/2010 at 7:40 pm

      The next gen iPad supposedly also has a horizontal orientation docking connector. Something flatter would indeed make more sense.

  4. Lorie Ghamy

    10/19/2010 at 1:28 am

    iWorks, iKeynote and iNumbers in 1.2 version are Office compliants : import (enhanced) and export (new for keynote with PowerPoint Export)…..

  5. Tim

    10/20/2010 at 10:29 am

    since Apple failed to kill the netbook with the iPad, doubt that this MacPad will. Well, price it at $250, like alot of netbooks and maybe, but that’ll drag down Apple gross margins even further.

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