MacPad: the perfect hybrid

MacBook Air

Apple will tonight unveil a new set of products. What I’m about to describe to you almost certainly won’t be one of them, but it should be.

Despite hundreds of attempts, nobody has yet managed to perfect the computer/tablet hybrid. Not even close. Microsoft’s had three stabs with the ever-improving but still fatally compromised Surface, Lenovo’s made some lovely hardware, but all Windows hybrids suffer from the same problem: Windows 8 has far too many shortcomings as a tablet operating system.

A couple of years ago, I lost a wager with MacUser’s Kenny Hemphill, when my prediction that Apple would merge OS X and iOS belly-flopped. In some, non-fiscal ways, I’m glad I was wrong, because it still leaves the door open for the perfect hybrid: the MacPad.

The MacPad shouldn’t merge MacBook and iPad: it should be both. When in laptop mode, it should be virtually indistinguishable from a MacBook Air: a slim laptop with the familiar keyboard and trackpad, running OS X. When you detach the screen, the laptop goes to sleep (as if you were shutting the laptop lid) and the tablet becomes an iPad running iOS. Pop the iPad back into the keyboard and iOS goes on standby, OS X resumes from where you left off, and the the iPad becomes nothing more than a dumb screen for the MacBook.

You might even choose to run iOS in “laptop mode”, where the laptop base acts as nothing more than an external keyboard and backup battery for the iPad. Each ‘device’ has its own OS and battery, but can take advantage of the other’s hardware when the two are connected.

Already my Macolyte friends are breaking out in hives at the very idea. I first floated the notion on Twitter and  Mac Format’s outgoing editor, Chris Phin, is already preparing to shoot me down in flames with a blog of his own.

Inelegant, outdated and unnecessary are just some of the criticism the Mac experts have slung in my direction. There’s no reason why it should be any of those. Apple’s already done most of the hard work with the hardware – it just needs to find a painless way to detach a screen from a MacBook Air. The hybrid market is still there to be won, and I’ve no doubt there’s a lucrative market (particularly in business) for a no-compromise MacBook and iPad that folds into a single device.

With one more thing, Tim Cook could silence the critics that say Apple has run out of ideas and smack the final nail into Microsoft’s multi-billion Surface fiasco. It couldn’t happen. Could it?

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