Macworld 08: The touchscreen Mac arrives

While we were waiting to hear whether Steve Jobs would announce a touchscreen laptop - he didn't - a little-known company was getting ready to show of

Axiotron announced the Modbook a year ago, but the modified Macbook with pressure sensitive touchscreen is now available - for the not insignificant price of US$2290 (and yes, they'll ship to the UK). Apparently Axiotron even have Apple approval for their redesign.

The Modbook is aimed at graphics professional - it has no keyboard, so you control it with a stylus. With 16 levels of pressure sensitivity it can be used for sketching, although it's hardly as the Wacom Cintiq displays, which offer 1,024 levels and start at $999. But then the Cintiq is just a display - while the Modbook is the whole computing shebang. And is the only Mac to have built-in GPS.

At the moment the Modbook relies on Apple's Ink handwriting recognition, which is pretty awful compared to the technology built into Windows Vista (indeed, Axiotron was displaying a Modbook running Windows under Boot Camp - surely just scouring the dusty shelves and bargain bins of your local Windows tablet retailer would be a cheaper solution?). However, third-party handwriting recognition is currently in development.

Compared to the Macbook Air, the Modbook looks chunky (not to mention expensive). But if Axiotron can do this to a standard MacBook, what's stopping them from doing it to Apple's new ultrathin model? Here's hoping.

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