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January 02, 2010

We Apple Fans Are In Mac Tablet Rumors Reruns



Although this year seems to be the real deal, the hype around Apple's Mac Tablet being set for imminent debut is "same old same old" to us jaded Cupertino fans who have been watching the company closely for the last decade-plus. While the January 26th date for a presentation no doubt involving Steve Jobs finally moves this long-broiling rumor toward the line for reality, hardly a year has gone buy since the beginning of the last decade when it wasn't expected that Apple would finally get a Web tablet out the door and onto shelves and desks everywhere.

Much of the background for the initial hype around the long-rumored Mac tablet came from Steve Jobs' cancellation of the Newton PDA line upon his return to Apple, with hints that the company would eventually return to the market. Rumors about Apple handhelds on the Cupertino campus were rampant, even as the Palm Pilot took the world by storm, and Handspring came and went. While subsequent stories have quoted CEO Steve Jobs saying he was just as proud of the products they had chosen not to ship as those they did, rumors for a handheld never quite went away, and they eventually morphed into often wild speculation around the tablet - the one that might finally be released in a few weeks.

Did you know these rumors have been going on for a full decade? If you are a Mac rumor afficionado like I am, you would. Observe:
"And just to keep true to those old 'Apple-developing-a-PDA' and 'Apple developing a Mac tablet' rumours, the iWalk contains full PDA functionality."

Apple's ‘breakthrough’ – iPod or iWalk?
The Register, October 23, 2001
Remarkable, even to my jaded eyes, was the fact that the latest name du jour, the iSlate, was suggested as far back as 2002...
"May we speculate that the big item due to set the Macintosh welkin ringing ... next month just might be an Apple tablet computer. Think of a name: iSlate, iNote, iPad (maybe too close to iPod)."

-- Garry Barker, Livewire, December 4, 2002
And when MacWorld San Francisco 2003 didn't see the Tablet debut, rumors continued, saying we even knew factories that were hard at work making plastics. Sound familiar?
Mobile Mac slate device to launch?

"All we know about this piece of plastic is that:
1) it is vouched for by a "previously good source" who has contacts in the factory where it's being made
2) it is almost an inch thick, at 24.6mm; and its other dimensions are 188mm by 132mm
3) the factory where it is being assembled is supposedly under contract to Apple."

-- MacWhispers, March 29, 2003
By the end of 2003, from his pulpit, Robert Cringely said that within the year, Apple would finally deliver a tablet, one powered by Intel, instead of the PowerPC chips at the time running the entire Macintosh line. So yes, a 2004 debut was expected!
"A year from now, I am sure these technical problems will be solved, but by then Motorola will have been shipping DS-CDMA products for 12 months. And some of those products will be going in that Apple tablet computer. Watch TV in your bathroom, access your audio and video collection from anywhere in the house, control your big screen TV and route video to it from your desktop or the Internet. "

Apple's Tablet Computer Might Finally Be That Link Between Your PC and TV
-- Robert Cringely, November 27, 2003
But it didn't come in 2004! A shame! What about 2005 then? And what if it ran full Mac OS X or a derivative, often discussed as Mac OS X Lite?
"Speculation over what Jobs might reveal this year are all over the map ... (including) an Intel-powered Mac Tablet running Mac OS X or a "Mac OS X Lite.""

-- MacDailyNews, May 27, 2005
It didn't happen that year either. A shame! Again! Good thing that the following year, 2006, saw companies in Taiwan working on costs for this product, to be launched in mid 2007. Sound familiar, again?
"Apple researchers have built a full working prototype of a Mac tablet PC and three Companies in Taiwan are now costing a product for a potential launch in mid 2007..."

-- Smarthouse, via MacDailyNews, November 26, 2006
So here we are at the beginning of the new year, 2010, and once again, the Mac faithful, and now the many, many media followers who have piled on to original core of Mac rumormongers, are ready for the Tablet, again. This time, it seems real. Rather than jump in and tell you what I think it is, or whether I think it will be a good fit for my home, I have learned to sit back and trust Steve and his team. They were right about the iPod. They were right about the iTunes Store. They were right about Mac OS X and they were hugely right about the iPhone. Like I said yesterday, in my article on 2010 computing, the entire industry is waiting to see if Apple really is going to make a tablet this time, and what that means for everyone.

But forgive my jaded elder ears if I am not piling on the Tablet bandwagon and arguing who is right and who is wrong. The hubbub isn't that we are bored and out of shiny objects to discuss, what with Android and all matter of iPhone apps. The issue is not that we don't need the tablet, or that some people don't want to be told what to speculate about, but that I know we don't know, just like we didn't know in 2002 or 2003 or 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007.

I hope 2010 is the year that this debuts, if for nothing else that we Mac fans can find something else to speculate about.