Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Modbook Mania at Macworld 2009

I just got back this evening from San Francisco and Macworld 2009 where I spent the entire day geeking out on everything Modbook at the AXIOTRON pavillion.

In between doing on-site demos of storyboards and sketches I was able to also attend the official unveiling of Axiotron's new crown jewel, the MODBOOK PRO which is now available for pre-order at the their website. (The first units ship this coming June)

The Modbook Pro is one stunning machine. This time the mod involves taking the basic guts of a Macbook Pro and encasing it into a multi-bodied aluminum shell exclusively designed and built by Axiotron. Of course it's Wacom Pen-abled and features a new button-less digitizer and frame which has optional matte or glossy surfacing, depending on the user preference. It's an exotic design really. It makes my Modbook look pedestrian in comparison. But be prepared to shell out a few bucks. A modestly equipped Modbook Pro will cost you around $5,000. For the portability, I think it's worth the money. Personally I don't think i'll be getting near a sniff of one for a long time....

To complement the added power of the Modbook Pro, Axiotron also announced it's new breakthrough touch technology called SYNERGY which finally brings touch sensitivity to the Modbook and will enable users to pull up a set of programmable keys that will be used in conjuction with the Pen. In other words, one can now use the Modbook without a keyboard to work in Photoshop, Illustrator and other design software. Keys like the Command, Alt and Control keys are included in the basic set up.

According to Axiotron founder and lead engineer Andreas Haas. The key was to design Synergy independent of the Wacom Pen, thereby eliminating any chance of both technologies from conflicting with each other. Synergy will be available in April as a free download to existing Modbook users and will be available to non-Modbook users for a fee.

Apple co-founder and Axiotron consultant Steve Wozniak was on-hand to at the unveiling and also performed a demo of the new QuickScript handwriting recognition software which he is helping develop in conjunction with Axiotron. QuickScript is designed not only to recognize a specific user's handwriting but it's advanced AI enables it to learn unique and subtle quirks in ones handwriting, thereby customizing itself for that user. It's also programmed to recognize different languages so one can write in Chinese, French, Japanese as well as basic English. (It's so smart, we're told it can distinguish between native French from Canadian French)

As for the convention itself? It's a virtual candy store if your a Mac fanatic. (or an iPhone fiend to be even more specific) Every third-party product from cases, peripherals, software and services is on hand. I didn't really need one but I scored a new iPhone case just for the heck of it. One of my favorites was the Google booth which showcased their iPhone GPS mapping and Google Earth apps, as well as a nice iPhone charging island where the power challenged could tank up on free juice.

All in all I had a swell time at the Mac geek ball. My sincere thanks to everyone at Axiotron for making me a part of their Macworld presentation. Check out the pictures below.

The Axiotron Pavillion

Here's the Modbook Pro encased in protective glass, away from my envious hands...

..and it's keeps it's really slim profile...

That's Steven "Woz" Wozniak and Axiotron president and engineer Andreas Haas at the unveiling of the Modbook Pro

Andreas talks up the Modbook Pro. According to him the three most common user requests after the release of the original Modbook are: More buttons. More Power and a longer battery. Mission accomplished on the Modbook Pro

A view of Moscone Center South and Mac geek ville.....

... and where would we all be without the almighty Apple?....

The demo line up today included yours truly as well as the super talented comic book artist Kody Chamberlain who conducted a concerto on his Photoshop demos...

Macworld wouldn't be complete without Googly - Google....

One final snapshot of yours truly at the end of one of my demos

.... ciao from San Francisco. Maybe I get to go again next year?


Allen said...

Y'know, when I saw them announce the Pro I instantly thought of you, wondering what you thought of it, etc. Little did I know you were right in the middle of it all :)

Thanks for letting me play with your at SDCC, by the way. I'm already saving my ducats for the Pro :)


Kody Chamberlain said...

Great overview of the booth events! Great meeting you at the show, had a blast watching you work.

enb said...

they should of let you demo the pro.

Louie del Carmen said...

Thanks Allen. It's nice to be thought of synonymously with the MB.

Hey Kody,

You are one talented man and it was great to meet you and watch you in action.

enb - I wasn't there that long otherwise I probably could have scheduled a trial. No matter because i'll find a way to demo it and post my comments here.

Jamie said...

Hey Louie awesome blog. I recently got a modbook and wanted to tell you about a great laptop stand called the visidec traveling laptop stand. I almost bought the irizer after reading your one post, but decided on the visidec because it seemed more sturdy and could hold the modbook up to almost 90 degree angle. It's available on amazon. Cool news on the modbook pro!

Mark said...

I post this as a warning to all who purchase a ModBook through the ModService channel at Axiotron:

So like many people I have been dreaming of the day Apple would produce a Tablet machine. As an artist this seemed like an ideal solution for someone who wants to sketch in coffee shops, on the train to work, or just sitting on the couch.

Axiotron seemed to be the company to fill this need.
I did much research. Looked over all these Blogs and forums and decided it was something I should do.

Now let me preface this to say I went into this fully eyes open that this is something very unique. You're essentially rendering your machine obsolete in the eyes of Apple techs.

That aside, I have to say my experience in the ModService conversion has been nothing but a mess from start, and I have yet to see the finish.

I sent my machine in for conversion and was impressed initially in the well thought out shipping procedure.

Sent to OWC/Mac Sales in Chicago for what I assumed would be a week process. (I even prepared myself for the process to lapse into 2 weeks to be safe).

Upon drop off at FedEX I find that the shipping label OWC provided was not set up as prepaid. So I phoned - was on hold for 20-30 minutes. Had to hand my cell to FedEx rep and they cleared it up after an hour. This was sent on Feb 26th.

(It is April 10th and I still have not received my machine!)

To summarize my waiting:

OWC had the machine several weeks with little to no answer on the delay. They only would say "something is wrong with the battery".

Several back and forths with OWC they discover the repair is out of their hands and they shipped my (now Apple warranty voided) machine to someplace called Micro Computer Support Services in North Carolina.

MCSS Has the machine several weeks. These guys have been the only saving grace thus far in this labored process. Particularly a repair tech by the name of "Larry" was awesome. Checking in with me daily and even set up a web cam so that I could watch him working on my machine.

Larry was dumbfounded - swapped out several motherboards, batteries, etc. Nothing seemed to work. He was greatly apologetic after working around 2 weeks on it and tells me he has to ship it to Axiotron headquarters in California.

So off goes my machine to LA.

Bear in mind I have been nothing but pleasant and patient this whole time.

I call Axiotron and talk to "Mark Perlstein" Customer Service Rep.

I tell him I'm getting a little impatient with this run around, but willing to give them a chance to fix it. He assures me I will either get my machine back or a brand new machine.

He sent one email on 4/4 apologizing for the delay, they will give me an answer ASAP yadda yadda. No answer from him beyond this.

Larry emails me each day with updates.

I call again on 4/8 checking in - "where are we at?" Mark states we're still looking at it Apple has put some non-standard parts in this machine which can't communicate with the Axiotron screen and software. (This is an Apple refurbished machine BTW) more yadda yadda.

He feels there is still potential for them to repair this machine, but if not they will send me a new base system. Now at this point I'm more than a little stressed. Trying to maintain my cool I try and pin point an answer from him. "I will let you know Friday where we're at and if we'll be sending you your machine or a new one"

Friday comes 2:00pm I send off an email - where are we at? few hours go by - no answer.

So I phone: He now states they still need to work on my machine they are not definite when I can get it. Might extend out another 2 weeks. More than likely not that long but he can't promise anything.

My patience at this point is at an end. I tell him the only person who has been communicative to me through this process is Larry. It is my feeling at this point that Axiotron broke my machine so therefore they bought it and owe me a new one. He states what else can I do send a temp machine? Why work this way? Axiotron is already out their money in repair persons time and shipping back and forth. Make the customer happy at this point! Send out a new machine! Sell mine as a refurb - Tell OWC to eat the cost - I don't care! I'm the customer NOT MY PROBLEM!

I post this as a buyer beware. As artists our lively hood unfortunately resides in having a functioning machine. I haven't been able to do work for over a month.

So just be prepared if you decide to go the route of ModService to convert your personal MacBook. Your machine could potentially be out 2 months or more with no definitive answer as to when you will have it back.

I wish Axiotron would realize there is many holes in this service and if they continue in this way will be out of business very soon.

Louie del Carmen said...


Thanks for posting your Mod service experience. I feel for your troubles and hope in the end that Axiotron will step up and make things right with you.

I waited a whole year to get my Modbook so I understand. As a company I can say that Axiotron is pretty solid but being that this product has only been in existence for a couple of years, I think they are still being challenged by trying to make all these components work together. I am not apologizing for them by any means but I know it bothers them that things like what you're experiencing are happening.

Keep us posted with it.