Confessions of a MacBook Touch rumor monger

Alan Kay (who I’ll get back to in a moment) is credited with a great quote: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

I’ll add to what Alan said: The second best way is to keep predicting it until someone else gets around to inventing it. And the third best way is to predict something and then spread every rumor possible that is remotely related to that prediction.

When it comes to one of the oldest Apple rumors I can recall, I have clearly done all I can to do the third best thing I can — to echo-chamber it. The rumor is that Apple will one day offer a device that is somewhere between a MacBook and an iPod Touch/iPhone. The device, now being labeled “The MacBook Touch” by the rumorosphere, has once again taken center ring at the Mac Rumor Circus. (Some latter-day rumorists are calling it a “Tablet Mac,” but that’s a rumor of a different color. Steve Jobs will never chase the tablet laptop market for reasons so obvious — even John Dvorak could figure out why.)

A couple of years ago, I posted a list of “All the Apple rumors you’ll ever need.” Of everything on the list — including the iPhone — the only one I’ve ever really craved is “Rumor #3″:

A device that is sort of like an 8″x10″ iPod that does everything a computer does but it won’t be called a tablet computer or an iPod.”

Strangely, for the past two years, if you Googled the phrase, “Rumor #3,” the #1 result has been a link to that list. To you, it might be called a MacBook Touch. But to me, it will always be Rumor #3. For past rumor posts, I’ve even Photoshopped up a version of what a Rumor #3 could look like (right).

But I have a deep, dark confession to make: I’ve never really thought Apple will come out with the product. It has been more wishful thinking than anything else whenever I echo-chambered such reports as this “patent” post on AppleInsider.com. My “rumor” posts have been more fantasy and speculation and desire to have the product I have called an iPod Touchbook (and here), than belief that Apple will offer such a product. Even today, I’m quite cynical and, frankly, don’t believe that such a product is going to be announced anytime soon. (Or, perhaps, I’m tired of being disappointed when these rumors I help spread never pan out, and I’m taking a new tact.)

 

My lust for a MacBook Touch
started with a 1987
video about a concept product called
the the Knowledge Navigator.
 

I’ll credit Apple (and in this case, the then “Apple Fellow,” Alan Kay) with first establishing the benchmark for my desire for such a device — and my willingness to serve as conduit for spreading any rumor which comes close to suggesting Apple will one day offer such a product. It started with a concept video Apple produced in 1987 that oozes with Alan Kay concepts. I’ve written about how that video describing the concept technology, “Knowledge Navigator,” set an expectation in my mind — and a generation of those of us who reside among the hyperlink-obsessed — of what one should expect to have one day. Today, now that all of the technology, infrastructure, pricing scale and marketing channels are in place for such a device, many of us are wondering: Where’s my Knowledge Navagator? (In 2003, Jon Udell posted a great item about the Knowledge Navagator concept video.)

A rumor is somewhat like abstract art — until the artist explains exactly what everything means, it can be interpreted anyway one wants. Until Steve Jobs strolls out onto the stage and explains exactly what this device is and what space in our mind it is to occupy, it will be all things to all geeks.

For me, Rumor #3 is about recapturing a little piece of 1987, when the promise of the future was not about feature sets, but about the cool things you could do if you have a device that goes with you everywhere and allows you to travel anywhere.

Note: One thing I didn’t like about the Knowledge Navigator was the “talking head” interface. I’m more of a touch interface person, myself.

Bonus link: The eBook people are finally catching on that a Rumor #3 device makes having a separate device merely to read books rather redundant.

  • http://www.teleread.org/blog David Rothman

    Ugh, “finally catching on”? The TeleRead site, focused on e-books, has long talked up the idea of multi-use devices rather than simply separate ones. Most of the other major e-book sites tend to think as I do. Rex, you need to distinguish between real users and marketers (and the oft-ignorant MSM). That said, I do see a place for Kindles and the like for people who want things nice and simple, with tight bookstore-gizmo integration. But, yes, they’re the exceptions. Mobile phones and multipurpose tablets and even laptops will be where the real action is in the long run. For interactive books, gasp, some users may even want DESKTOPS. So your point’s well taken.

    Thanks,
    David Rothman
    http://www.teleread.org/blog

  • http://rexblog.com Rex Hammock

    Sorry, David. I may have been lumping you in with a group of e-book-centric people who are so wedded to the eBook concept that they can’t see reading books on a multi-featured device as a fulfillment of their vision of the future. I use a Kindle and love the tight integration it has with Amazon. However, I’d rather have such integration with a device that is not such an awful piece of hardware.

  • http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/ Aaron Pressman

    A MacBook Touch certainly would make the iPhone e-book apps a lot better. I feel like I spend more time turning pages than reading while testing some of the new e-readers on my iPod touch.

  • http://rexblog.com Rex Hammock

    Aaron, As much as people try to tell me the iPhone is an eBook reader, I agree with you: It’s not. I have some books accessible on my iPhone via TextOnPhone.com and despite some rather cool features, the page view area makes long-form reading a less than pleasing experience.

  • Sam

    I just accidently severed my Macbook’s screen from the keyboard, so I guess I’m way ahead of the curve on this one.