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ericn

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Aug 17 10 8:11 PM

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While Axiotron, the designer of my favorite gadget, the Modbbook, is not dead yet — as of this writing, there is still someone deleting the link-spam that appears on their forums — nonetheless, they are on their last legs. For those who have not followed the Axiotron saga,


Deep Discounts for Deep Doo-doo,

More Deep Doo-doo for Axiotron,

Waiting for the Modbook Pro,


they have been in serious financial trouble since September 2009. They have failed to issue a financial report for fiscal 2009 (ending last Sept.) and failed to issue any reports for the subsequent quarters of fiscal 2010.  For a publicly traded company, this is a big deal, and, as a result, their stock has been suspended from trading and will remain so until they come back into regulatory compliance.


In order to dig themselves out of their problems, they spent much of the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 trying to convince their lenders to reduce the company's debt eventually resulting in a June shareholder meeting at which all debt-holders agreed to exchange Axiotron's debt for company stock (See this press release of Jun 30).


Sounds great? Axiotron is above water again? Not so fast. It turns out that it does not have enough cash to pay the auditors it needs to get back into regulatory compliance (see Supplemental Bridge Funding in this news release  of Jun 11). And so it goes, to keep the regulators at bay, Axiotron announces another date when it will be back in compliance, and, just as that date arrives, it announces yet another date for compliance. Anyone who has a been waiting for the arrival of the Modbook Pro will find this tactic familiar. Just as with the Modbook Pro shipping dates, there does not appear to be a plan to accomplish the task by the date announced, but rather, the date chosen just far enough in the future to make it plausible (Axiotron has recently announced another such compliance delay as of August 6th). That Axiotron has been completely unable to accomplish any of the tasks it set out for itself has caused me to lose faith.


And I'm not the only one. Consider the following graph of number of comments on the Modbook's Facebook wall from April 2009 to August 2010.



Update: Actual number of comments for Aug 2010 is 17. Graph adjusted.)


Following Axiotron's announcement in June of another nine month delay for the Modbook Pro, interest in the Modbook has collapsed. You can see that at Axiotron Forums where new postings have slowed to a trickle. The same trend is present on this forum as well. 


There are two bright spots in this sad story. Both derive from this quote in the circular they prepared for the June shareholder meeting,


The Assets constitute essentially all assets of the Corporation with a book value of approximately US$1,354,270.


Firstly, this implies their supply of Modbook kits is substantial, and, regardless of the Axiotron's fate, Other World Computing and other resellers will likely be able to build new Modbooks for quite some time. Secondly, the secured debt-holders could have chosen to liquidate the company and would, I presume, have recovered 40-50% of these assets, perhaps US$500,000, but instead, chose to exchange their loans for stock. Secured debt-holders are likely to know as much about a company as anyone outside of management. Perhaps they think the prospects for Axiotron aren't so bleak after all. Maybe the latest Modbook Pro ship date has a real plan to back it up. Or maybe Axiotron's bankers aren't so smart, and Axiotron has sold them a bill of goods. Honestly, given their track record, I'm inclined to believe the latter.


I'd love to be proven wrong. The Modbook is a unique device. In comparison with its competition, it is powerful and, because it uses a stylus, it is also accurate. The majority thinking on this follows Steve Job's quote:


If you see a stylus, they blew it.


In the short-run, that maybe right, but, in the longer term, it is not. A stylus is just a more accurate finger. As people doing things requiring accuracy want to take advantage of the convenience, light weight, and battery life of so called toys like the iPad, they will require a stylus (and a bit more power). Until the rest of the industry recognizes this, we need the Modbook. 


EricN



Notes:

I put Steve's stylus quote in the same category as his quote about iPod video, “I'm not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen.”


For the present, those who need a pen tablet computer, of which the Modbook is among these best, are those who need to draw, artists, teachers, and perhaps some engineers, and those who communicate using math, scientists and mathematicians. Although there are other solutions, none is as convenient as a portable pen tablet.


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ericn

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#2 [url]

Aug 18 10 7:21 PM

Assuming they dig themselves out of their present financial and regulatory hole (a big assumption), I hope they have the good sense to focus first on a few small victories, like the one you suggest. If they focus on the Modbook Pro, which has, I suspect, a very small (and very pissed off) market, they are likely done. 

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#3 [url]

Aug 20 10 11:54 AM

Woz was the real hero. Jobs is just so mediocre. If Woz were in charge of Apple they would have had a real tablet many years ago.

My Modbook is great but it just feels like something out of the 90's. It runs hot, its heavy, and the screen isn't bright enough.

I mean, come on! Why doesn't someone else take this up? Why must we depend on Axiotron?

And about the only thing the iPad is good for is a cat toy --

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ericn

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#4 [url]

Aug 20 10 3:30 PM

You have the same complaints about the Modbook that I have: 


It runs hot, its heavy, and the screen isn't bright enough.


to which I'd add that at 3 hours the battery life is too short. Then to answer your question:


Why doesn't someone else take this up?


Because addressing any one of those four issues (let alone all four) has significant engineering consequences. I'm not happy with the compromises that Apple has chosen, but I'm not sanguine about others doing much better anytime soon (example).


Why must we depend on Axiotron?


I think my post makes clear: we can't.


I continue to argue that we should take the Modbook as it is, right now, as the best of its type, and augment and extend OSX to make it more Modbook friendly. An active community of Modbook users could make that happen.

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#5 [url]

Aug 20 10 6:16 PM

Yes, well, they blew it. It does run hot, it is too heavy, the screen isn't bright enough, but worse than all that, they failed to match the PC competition. You cannot use the ModBook as a tablet, as you can with the PC, because it lacks the drivers to coexist with PowerPoint or Keynote in presentation mode. That makes it virtually useless as a classroom tool for giving lectures with real time annotation. Howe they missed this is beyond me, but they are now going the way of the dinosaur, and, I am afraid to say, deservedly so.

There is a whole Mac educational market out there that is begging for a tablet-style Mac, and Axiotron just did not deliver.

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#6 [url]

Aug 21 10 8:38 AM

I don't understand why the Modbook Pro would need an entirely new case. Why can't they use the same principle as with the Modbook standard and just replace the top case and screen?

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#7 [url]

Aug 21 10 8:39 AM

...though, I guess even then, it would run too hot and the battery life wouldn't be so great. Or would it?

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#8 [url]

Aug 21 10 8:48 AM

I think it has to do with the unibody. Since it is one piece, modding it will be a lot more work. By making their own case it will be alot easier for them to do what they want with it. 

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ericn

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#9 [url]

Aug 27 10 6:11 PM

Regarding getting their act together accounting-wise, having rescheduled five or six times already, Axiotron recently said:


In its previous biweekly status report, the Company announced its intention to provide a new anticipated date for return to compliance in this report. In that regard, the Company anticipates that it will be able to return to compliance by September 30, 2010.


And I'm sure Beatle's Albums will be appearing in the iTunes Store any day now.

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#10 [url]

Aug 28 10 2:10 AM

Hello Eric
Thanks for keeping us informed. Well I agree on all points above regarding the practicality of the modbook. I'd add that as a painting medium the people at Axiotron obviously upset Wacom because the pressure sensitivity of this computer is dull to put it mildly.

I recently got an Android phone and I keep finding myself trying to interact with the modbook with my finger rather than a stylus. The stylus is really important and I agree with Eric that without that, there just isn't enough accuracy.

The ipad is a toy. A very useful toy but it could be so much more.

So we find ourselves with a unique device. I suppose we should make the most of it. I'm not a programmer but if I were I'd be looking at ways to improve the pressure sensitivity of the tablet controlls and seeing if there were a way to make the screen react to the presence of a finger as well as the stylus. Plus, when there is any application other than a drawing application open, to get the screen to allow layers of handwriting to appear over word documents and pdf files so that handwritten notes / drawings could be made on them for classroom presentations etc.



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ericn

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#11 [url]

Aug 28 10 6:11 PM


Hi arty,
A few weeks back, I might have agreed with you about the pressure sensitivity, but, then, I read through this ConceptArt forum post. I now think the perceived lack of pressure sensitivity may be a settings issue. I manually adjusted my pressure sensitivity as described in the post and was pleasantly surprised. (I'm, naturally, working on an AppleScript utility to make this adjustment easier. I might have an early version ready next week if there is anyone interested in testing it.)

Your layers of handwriting is an interesting idea. Recently, I've thought to add a new Modbookish forum category: “Dream a better Modbook” where we can brainstorm on how to improve and extend the existing hardware. And so I have. Your ideas are a good place to start.

EricN

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ericn

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#12 [url]

Oct 5 10 8:01 PM

Axiotron has once again missed a deadline (Sept. 30) to get its financial house in order. Now they anticipate getting things together sometime in the next three months:


The Company is working with its auditors to complete the previously delayed audit of its annual financial statements for fiscal year 2009 and is also preparing quarterly financial statements for the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010, and now anticipates that it will be able to return to compliance during the first quarter of its fiscal year 2011 (the three-month period ending December 31, 2010).


It would be hilarious, if it weren't so depressing.


EricN


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#13 [url]

Nov 18 10 10:37 AM



"n its previous biweekly status report, the Company announced its intention to provide a new anticipated date for return to compliance in this report. In that regard, the Company anticipates that it will be able to return to compliance by September 30, 2010.


And I'm sure Beatle's Albums will be appearing in the iTunes Store any day now."



It might hopefully........................... be quite fitting that the Beatles catalogue has finally come out on iTunes!!!!

BUT on the other hand I always cross my fingers for the long forgotten ... AWAITED mod-book Pro.

/fb







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