Back in the 90s, some electronics manufacturers began to catch the trend towards the transition to touch control of gadgets. The level of technology development and the complete lack of a clear concept doomed entire lines of devices from different companies to failure.

For example, several generations MessagePad from Apple failed to conquer the handheld notebook market and eventually lost out to a younger company Palm.

To the point: 5 Apple communicators and tablets that came out long before the first iPhone

Then returned to the company Steve Jobs covered this slightly untimely direction and tried to pull the company out of the crisis. The Cupertinos tidied up their line of PCs and laptops, and later quickly broke into the portable music player market. Only 10 years later, Apple was ripe for the release of the next gadget with a touch screen, and it became iPhone.

Not many people know that in the period between returning to the Jobs company and the presentation of the first iPhone, there was a very unusual and interesting gadget called modbook.

Who came up with the ModBook and how Apple reacted to it

It is curious that the device was not developed or released by Apple, but almost entirely consisted of apple components and ran Mac OS.

Andreas Haas in the 1990s, he held a leadership position in the development team MessagePad. After the project was closed, he had the opportunity to stay with the company and continue working in other relevant areas. However, Haas did not want to leave developments, throw his ideas halfway and left Apple.

The small company he founded Axiotron Inc. could not afford the full cycle of development and creation of personal computers and Haas decided on a little adventure. His company officially bought Apple computers, converted them into their own tablets, and sold them to the end consumer.

Everything was done officially and according to the law. Such a gadget fell under the definition “Aftermarket Technique Conversion” and could quite legally be sold under the brand name of another company. Most likely, Haas did not set out to get rich on a new product, but only wanted to draw attention to his ideas of Jobs in order to continue working on similar developments, but already in Cupertino.

It was rumored that Apple treated the company of one of its former top managers well and did not engage in legal disputes regarding the legality of such modifications.


Andreas Haas and Steve Wozniak Present ModBook at Macworld Expo 2007

Several years of developers Axiotron Inc. brought the idea to mind, and in 2007 they decided to present their first gadget. They became a tablet modbookwho worked under MacOS X.

Andreas Haas got support Steve Wozniaktogether they presented a novelty at the conference Macworld Expo 2007. That’s just within the framework of this event Steve Jobs introduced the first generation iPhoneannounced the imminent appearance of consoles Apple TV and updated three lines of iPods.

Do you recognize the guy on the right?

In such a stream of news about official Apple products, almost no one paid attention to modbook. The gadget did not receive proper coverage in the press, and only enthusiasts who were deep in the topic showed interest in the developers.

What was ModBook

Essentially the company axiotron tried to turn a current MacBook into a tablet with minimal rework. As a basis, the practically untouched lower part of the actual at that time was used. iBook G4. The devices were still produced in a plastic case, which greatly simplified the possibility of alterations and modifications.

The set of ports on the ends has been carried over from the original Apple laptop, even the slot-load DVD drive on the right end of the tablet has been retained.

From above, the structure was covered with a solid aluminum frame with a slightly modified matrix. The screen itself differed from the original in increased brightness and better viewing angles, the matrix coating consisted of a special pressure-sensitive layer. It was based on a sensor Wacomwhich recognized touch with a special stylus.

The refresh rate of the sensor layer was 133 Hzthe coating is skillfully recognized 256 levels of pressure. For comparison, the current iPad Pro models have a sensor with a frequency of 240 Hzwhich recognizes 2000 degrees of pressure. As you can see, everything was not so bad as for the gadget of 2007.

The sensor did not support finger input, and there was no built-in keyboard in the device. I had to use virtual keys when I needed to enter text in macOS.

The utility built into the OS greatly saved the situation. ink for handwriting recognition.


Inside, the gadget remained the same Apple laptop with support for all the chips and technologies of its time. Such a tablet could read and write CDs, display an image on an external monitor via Mini-DVI port, supported all sorts of USB and firewire accessories.

The device could be connected to the network wired or wirelessly, and using iSight You can record videos or make video calls.

In the upper left corner of the tablet there were a couple of buttons and three LED indicators. One key completely replaced the Mac power button, but the second had several purposes at once. A long press of the key reset the touch layer controller board. The procedure was necessary in case of freezing or failures in the touch input.

A short press of the button activated the built-in GPS module. Yes, the tablet was equipped with a geolocation sensor, which was not in the original Apple laptops.

The GPS module allowed the device to run third-party utilities to determine the location and record the current coordinates. A full-fledged cartographic service also for the desktop operating system simply did not exist then. The developers nevertheless decided to implement a similar module in modbooktrying to interest military and government organizations or narrowly focused specialists in the device.

There were practically no software differences from Mac computers. The operating system installed a touchpad driver and a utility for configuring the stylus, and Mac OS itself perfectly converted the commands it entered into cursor movements and mouse clicks.

After the presentation, the company took a long time to set up mass production. The first ModBook models were available to buyers only at the beginning of 2008. To speed up the process, a service was even offered where the owner of a compatible Apple laptop could contact the company. axiotron and order the appropriate upgrade.

Price tag for modbook was from $2290but the price of modifying an existing device was calculated individually.

Advanced versions of ModBook Pro and Modbook Pro X never went on sale

Development and launch of serial sales of the first model modbook dragged on a lot. The gadget initially remained in the shadow of the presented iPhoneand then greatly inferior in appearance and filling to more current models Macbook Pro in Unibody case.

The updated line of Apple laptops was equipped with more powerful hardware, had more configurations available and better coped with most tasks. The prototype of the new ModBook Pro has already been shown on Macworld Expo in 2009, but it took several years to wait.

Only in the middle of 2012 did the official sales of the ModBook Pro begin, which was already built on the basis of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The gadget was produced in a similar way, but had a more durable steel metal case, which significantly increased the cost of production.

A tablet with a full operating system on board could be equipped with a powerful processor Intel Core i7have up to 16 GB RAM and HDD up to 1 TB or SSD up to 960 GB. It was one of the most powerful tablet computers.

The device was released in a small edition. Analysts suggest that there were less 1000 finished tablets. The price of the device is practically for $2000 surpassed the comparable MacBook Pro in terms of filling, which did not greatly contribute to tablet sales.


The latest in the ModBook touch line is the Pro X model. Such a project was registered on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2014. Users were promised updated hardware from the current line of 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

All this was planned to fit in a strong thin case and equipped with an additional plug-in keyboard.

Although the project has collected the necessary $150,000 to start mass production, but the model never arrived to the enthusiasts who supported the idea. Some users have received refunds, and some are still fighting Kickstarter over unfulfilled promises.

All this did not prevent another project from appearing on another crowdfunding platform. Wefunder. All the same group of developers promised to turn into a touch tablet Macbook Pro with touch panel touch bar.

At the moment, not a single modification of the Modbook Pro X has ever seen the light of day.

This is how a rather curious project with a complex and ambiguous history of development showed the desire of a certain niche of users to get a full-fledged computer with a powerful functional operating system in the case of a small tablet.

If before you had to rely on enthusiasts like Andreas Haas and believe in projects on Kickstarter, now all eyes are turned towards Apple. Cupertino have already transferred two lines of their own tablets to fairly powerful M1 chips, which do an excellent job with all tasks in laptops and desktop computers.

However, Cook and company are still hesitant to release a full macOS for iPad.

We just have to wait for the next conference WWDC with the hope of a great miracle.

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