Apple 2.0

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Analyst: Touchscreen MacBook 3-5 years away

May 1, 2008: 8:40 AM ET

Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray's chief Apple analyst, issued a report to clients Thursday offering his take on 15 "unanswered questions" about Apple's Mac, iPod, iPhone and retail businesses. Much of it covers territory that will be familiar to Apple (AAPL) watchers, but one point struck me as new.

It has to do with Apple's Multi-Touch technology, which Munster describes as a fully-protected "core differentiator" of Apple's products.

Munster believes that the Multi-Touch gestures pioneered on the iPhone and recently added to the MacBook Air and Pro, are "just the beginning of Apple's exploration of Multi-Touch on the Mac." Eventually, Munster says, those gesture controls will work their way from MacBook's trackpad, where they currently reside, to the backlit screen, for "a more dynamic user interface for the Mac."

A touchscreen MacBook -- the so-called MacBook Touch -- was something many Apple enthusiasts hoped would be announced at MacWorld this year. Gizmodo last November ran a contest inviting users to imagine what an Apple Tablet computer would look like. You can see the winner, and 20 other notable entries, here.

Munster shares Gizmodo's enthusiasm for such a device, but doesn't expect to see one anytime soon. He writes:

"Ultimately we expect Apple to develop a full touch-screen MacBook, although not until the technology has fully matured over the next 3-5 years."

[Photoshop rendition of a MacBook Touch by Logan Lape, Gizmodo. Posted with permission.]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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