Ctrl+Alt+Del: Apple should make its own Surface Book

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OPINION: There have recently been some exciting rumours swirling around that Apple is planning on making a modular MacBook. But, it’s certainly nothing concrete so I’m here to persuade Apple to follow through with these murmurings and give us the Surface Book-flavoured iPad or MacBook that we deserve.

Before I get into the ins and outs of what I’m hoping Apple will do, I’ve got to address a juicy, but ludicrous, part of this rumour.

It comes from a patent application approval (via Gizmodo), with the application first submitted on June 2021 so Apple is already way ahead of us all on this. The wild part is an image which shows a record player attached to the bottom half of a modular laptop device. Delightful. Apple, that is absolutely not what I’m asking for but I would like to see it… just for fun.

Modular MacBook with a record player
Image Credit (Apple)

The rest of the patent application shows that Apple is already considering working on exactly what I’m going to ask for, with the images showing off a more advanced version of the Surface Book 3 formula. There appears to be a base with a blank canvas vibe which you can then attach modules on top like a display at the top, a keyboard at the bottom and, maybe, even a display on the bottom half too. All of which hints at some combination of the Surface Book style and Lenovo’s dual-screen Yoga Book 9i (that I’m, incidentally, writing this column on right now ahead of our full review).

It must be reiterated, however, that patents can come and go with little sign of them ever actually coming to fruition and the ideas in this application feel like just that ideas. What I’m hoping for is something more tangible, realistic and useful coming in the nearer future. The original Surface Book launched back in 2015, so it’s not wild to think Apple could easily whip up something similar in fairly swift fashion. But, why is the idea of an Apple-made Surface Book so good? It can be a true MacPad.

Modular MacBook
Image Credit (Apple)

MacPad (via WIRED) is a term used across the internet to describe the convergence of iPad and iPadOS with Macs and MacOS, in particular, with iPads becoming more capable outside of the more traditional mobile app-focused tablet style. But, it’s not clear if Apple wants this and the iPad isn’t quite there yet, with its multitasking features not having quite nailed taking iPadOS to the next level as well as still lacking the raw power a high-end MacBook can offer.

If Apple can nail modularity and give us a Surface Book-like iPad then we could see a device that works like an iPad when not docked so you can go about your tablet-y business but, then, a Performance Base (as it is called on the Surface Book) could offer boosted battery, turbocharged graphical performance and a richer typing experience. However, the enhanced performance would have to be a keep part of making this work and, based on the recent Mac Pro reveal, Apple has not yet sussed modularity on its Apple Silicon-based Macs.

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I really think this could be a wondrous device from Apple should it come to fruition. I regularly used an iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard and it’s a solid solution in its own right but I don’t think it is quite there for serious and intense workloads, in its form factor or in its power. And, the flexibility of whacking some enhanced specs inside a detachable keyboard is what is really exciting here – an iPad experience when you want and a MacBook experience when it’s time for performance heft. There’s potentially a sustainability slant to this too. It could build upon the interesting vision of companies like Framework, with the ability to upgrade the modular aspect of the device rather than needing to purchase something completely new.

The argument against such a device for Apple? Maybe, they’d like you to just buy an iPad and a Mac if you need both in your life. But, don’t be a spoilsport, Apple, get to work on this wondrous modular machine.


Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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