For the record, this is not my hand. If it were my hand, you’d see me tweaking Max/MSP or something. To whomever may own this hand: sorry I didn’t have you sign a release on the tablet. -PK

Tablets have always held a special, niche appeal for musicians. For notation, they’re invaluable: you can prop a tablet up on a music stand and use computer notation software in place of manuscript paper. But they’re quite nice for live music, too: tap synth parameters directly, and control performances onstage. Until now, though, there has been no easy way to get a non-Windows / non-Linux tablet. Enter the Axiotron ModBook:

ModBook Product Page [Other World Computing]

I got to try out the ModBook at Other World Computing’s booth and talk a bit to the engineers. The MacBook-turned-tablet is certainly a marvel of engineering. The case is a rugged mod of the factory MacBook with a Wacom tablet digitizer. Maddeningly enough, Apple’s Inkwell technology is truly brilliant: handwriting recognition is spot-on, and everything is beautifully integrated with the OS. You have to wonder if Apple planned to release a tablet computer and then canceled the product.

For those of you who asked, the tablet uses USB drivers, not serial.

The only problem I have with the ModBook is that you’d have to be truly obsessed with Macs to shell out for one. US$2200 and up buys you a model that’s comparable with PC tablets costing a full thousand bucks less. Worse, the mod seals shut the computer: there’s no QWERTY keyboard left. Given that plenty of PC tablets manage to convert between laptop and tablet without adding much weight or width, Windows tablets start looking pretty good — especially when you could afford both a standard MacBook and PC tablet for the price. But for someone, somewhere, I’m sure these will work — even if the rest of us can’t be without good, old-fashioned QWERTY.