Where’s the Tablet Macintosh?

So I’m putzing about, trying to think of how to upgrade my computer life today. I don’t need a new computer (though I’m not opposed to getting more memory come spring), nor do I need a new monitor. I just got my new keyboard, which rocks, and my Kensington mouse is perfect as ever. So what do I need?

I need a new PDA/portable solution.

I have an MP3 player: first generation iPod, 3 years old, and $300 at initial purchase. It’s needed two purchases in the three years, a carry case for $50 and a new set of headphones for $25. My cat ate the first one. I’ve never had a single problem with it, and the battery is about 4 to 6 hours right now, which I think is pretty damn good compared to what most people bitch about.

I have a laptop: first generation iBook that doesn’t boot, bought in December 2000. I spent $45 on an extra memory chip, but the poor beasty is dead on OS 9. I don’t know how much it cost, since it was a gift, but I’ll guess $2000. It was the nice, dark blue clamshell.

I have a PDA: Tungsten W, first (and only) generation, $200 at initial purchase. It’s … er … yeah, it’s a Palm Pilot with cell phone capability and a thumbpad. Given that I also have a traditional cell phone that I use more often, you can guess how well it works in that respect. I used the PDA for about 12 months as a way to keep track of what was going on in an RPG, but I write by hand faster than I can thumbpad, so I’ve switched back to that and I’m happier. That said, I use my Palm mostly to jot down notes on the El, write stories, and read webpages I’ve saved.

I have a cell phone: Sony Ericson with a camera, free thanks to AT&T. I like it.

So first and foremost, I think I’m going to switch to paper for some of my note taking. I have a stack of small notebooks I adore, and I’m going to revert to that for my stories. I generally don’t have time to write sections, and I jot down notes that get expounded on later anyway when I type them in at a desk, so why not.

Secondly, I like my cell phone, and I’m keeping it.

Thirdly, I love my iPod. It’s my best friend ever. It plays me music when I walk home or rollerblade or ice skate or travel. I can wear the headphones, pretend it’s on, and ignore people. I’m anti social that way. I can keep 90% of my contact and date book information on my iPod, and I’m testing that out right now. It seems like a nice concept, and it works alright so far.

My main problem is I love eBooks. I download a shit load of them to my Palm, and really I use it for that a lot more than anything else. Everything else I want to do on my Palm, I find difficult, and I’d rather do it on a laptop. Now the laptop I crave runs around $1200, which isn’t that much at all, but not something I can afford. I really want a tablet PC/Macintosh, but the one that’s closest to what I want is the Clio NXT which is Windows and I have an ethical and technical issue there. Compatibility is king and I already bork between Windows and Macintosh at work. I don’t want to deal with it at home.

I’d like to be able to do it all on an iPod, but if I can’t I have a hard time justifying both an iPod and a new laptop. I could put my music onto my laptop, but that’s harder to deal with than the handy iPod. And I don’t need all the functionality of a laptop. I need an Airport Card (WiFi), keyboard/mouse, an Office/Word application, email (mail.app), web (Safari), and maybe a game. But that’s not a huge issue. A text editor (BB Edit) would be a plus.

I need a laptop alternative. A tablet would be perfect. Take hand written note and use it like a traditional laptop. Cool. The Alphpasmart Dana product, is a nice idea but the screen is tiny as fuck. Mac had a couple similar ideas to that, but neither took off. Newton’s handwriting issues aside, something between it and an eMate is my cup of tea. But they were both discontinued in 1998. That Clio looks like the blend I want, but not the flavor.

In a way, my problem is I want something that doesn’t exist. I really want, would love, a tablet Macintosh. The current iMac is damned close. Who do I have to blow at Apple to get a tablet/pda/eMate sort of tool? Hell, make it a touch screen 12″ iBook with a flippy aroundy monitor, sell it for $1500. I’d love it.

But I know what to do.

Wait until my Palm breaks and then suck it up and get something like a Tungsten C for wireless off eBay or such for $300. Or there was a Pocket PC with a bigger screen and a slide out thumbpad. It’s just too hard to haul around a laptop all the time.

For what it’s worth, I scoped out eBay and found a handful of eMates for under $100 and a wireless card for about $50. Alternatly I could get a Newton for $50-100 and a keyboard for another $50 and the wireless card for $50. Which means for about $150-$200, I could have a 4 meg PDA. Yeah, see my problem? Someone needs to put a hard drive in an eMate case (take the iPod hard drive perhaps?), crank it to OS 10.3 or such, plug in a firewire port, airport card, and some memory. Poof. If I was that techy, I’d probably cannibalize my own iPod to do it. Honey, I’m kidding! The Tungsten C is cheaper.

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