Is OS X Lion hinting at a Mac Tablet?

Mike Halsey MVP
Jun 7, 2011
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Apple, Companies

Yesterday Steve Job's unveiling of a host of new Apple products and services was very well received, including the official product tour for the next version of OS X on the Mac desktop.  Some of the features don't seem to fit well with the current Mac lineup though and this has left me wondering if Apple are including them because they're now the types of features you'd expect to find in a desktop operating system, or if perhaps their inclusion is a hint at a forthcoming Mac tablet or convertible laptop?

The features in question are firstly multi-touch control and gesture control, but also the iOS-style application launcher, the addition of full screen apps and their Mission Control centre for finger-friendly multitasking.

With very few exceptions in the last few years laptop manufacturers have left muti-touch out of the equation because either when using it the keyboard gets in the way, putting the screen at an uncomfortable distance, or more commonly the whole laptop topples over backwards when the screen is prodded.  Both of these are very good reasons why multi-touch has been the sole preserve of all-in-one PCs.  Even here though it has failed to take off in any meaningful way.

Now let's for a moment set aside Apple's magic wand of being able to take existing technologies and adapt them for the mainstream, I don't think this is what's happening this time around.

With Windows 8 the inclusion of proper tablet functionality is there to serve a real purpose.  That operating system will be available on tablet computers, either embedded or installable.  There are good reasons for running Windows on a tablet as well.  Where the iPad or Android tablets exist for 'consumers' of information, Windows is most suitable for 'content creators'.

Thus Windows running on tablets makes a lot of sense for a lot of people.  You would assume then by the same reasoning that Mac OS X on a tablet would also make a lot of sense.  People who use Macs are also content creators, often working in the creative industries where a tablet would be of great benefit to them.

But we've got the iPad which isn't a full desktop operating system and which, despite being based on the core OS X kernel, won't run Mac desktop apps.

So what about the next generation of Apple hardware?  Certainly the next generation of iMacs will feature multi-touch, that makes sense.  It doesn't make as much sense though to include the technology in Apple's secondary Mac monitors or in their laptop ranges.  That is unless something new is being planned.

I say this because it stands to reason that Apple, unless they really are just trying to keep up with the Jones' wouldn't include so many headline features that can only be used, or used well, by a proportion of their overall customer base.  Why would they shout about these features in the way they are, making them the most prominent features of the new OS X update on their website.

This leads me to believe that new hardware could be coming from Apple with the next hardware refresh.  This could include either a tablet with a core i5 processor running the full version of OS X with the new iOS-like additions, or more probably, a laptop / tablet convertible much akin to the early Windows convertible tablets (though I would imagine coming from Apple, done properly this time).

It's curious that this OS release seems to ask more questions than it answers, and I'm very curious what, if anything, Apple have planned for us in new hardware form factors.


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  1. Mac Tablet said on June 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    It’s just a matter of time before Apple releases a full blown Mac tablet that is a laptop replacement. Apple still owns and still has the name iSlate trademarked in just about every country.

  2. Frank Swistow said on June 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The “touchability” in OS X (and now Windows 8) is great except you would need to be able to have a peripheral device that would allow you to take advantage of the touch screen without having to always lift your hands to actually *touch* the screen. Having to constantly lift your arms to touch the screen would get old after awhile (obviously for a tablet this is irrelevant). The closest I have seen that would allow you to do this is technology that shows your hands inside the computer monitor, allowing you to use your hands while they are resting on your desk.

    Hands in computer example:
    10 GUI example:

  3. peerer said on June 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    could it be ipad killer? :D

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