Apple Tablets This Fall? Finally?

Apple If Jason O’Grady’s source is correct, Apple could be rolling out Mac OS X-based tablets this fall, in a 12-inch or 13-inch form factor.

Over at The Apple Core/ZDNet, Jason writes about a source mentions a tablet being rolled out Most likely in the September or October time frame. It will run the full Mac OS X and have a slot loading SuperDrive, an “iPhone-type” GPS chip and an Intel Core Duo processor, presumably Intel’s Atom.

He makes some good points:
– Intel’s Germany CEO claimed that some kind of iPhone would be powered by Intel’s Atom CPU (the Atom would be too big for current iPhones).
– Apple has pretty extensive handwriting experience (going back to the Apple Newton) plus OS X has had a lot of touchscreen integration (and the iPhone has increased the knowledge base when it comes to OS X and touchscreen software and how people interact with touchscreens in general.
– Apple has patented a lot of tablet designs going back over a decade, as well as various touchscreen interface designs and concepts (some of which made it into the iPhone, some of which didn’t).

I disagree with his source on two key areas:

1) A 12-inch or 13-inch Mac better have something more powerful than an Intel Atom. There is a reason why Apple moved away from Intel’s Core Solo (yes, financially it made sense, but just as important, if not more so, Dual-Core CPUs made much more sense with Mac OS X, especially with the whole “Mac experience”). The Intel Atom that we are seeing in upcoming netbooks / sub-notebook is not impressing people with its Windows Vista performance, and while Mac OS X may scale down a lot better than Vista, something this large (12″ or 13″) had better have performance that comes close to a low-end MacBook, otherwise the critics will lambast Apple (what am I saying, they’ll do it anyways). A more fitting CPU would be something like what’s in the MacBook Air or the Lenovo ThinkPad X300. Sure, Intel has done custom CPU runs for Apple, and they could do so here, but in this case it would be scaling up a CPU in perfomance, rather than taking an existing CPU and scaling it down (ala the MacBook Air).

2) A SuperDrive? No. Apple and Steve Jobs just convinced us that with the introduction of the MacBook Air, an integrated optical drive is not needed in such ultraportable devices – Apple sells an add-on USB-powered optical drive, as well as making software available that allows you to use optical drives in other machines. A SuperDrive adds too much overhead to such a device, both in terms of power requirements and more importantly, physical space requirements.

Do I think Apple will introduce a touchscreen/Tablet at some (i.e. something bigger than the iPhone), sure. I would even go so far as to say it could hit the 8.9-inch or 10-inch form factor (in which case a more powerful Intel Atom would make sense, but not in a 12-inch or 13-inch form factor).

Read: The Apple Core/ZDNet