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The 2012 Modbook Pro

"Finger painting is fun when you're five years old. But when you start getting into it, you're going to pick up a pen." That's the philosophy of Andreas Haas, creator of the Modbook and the newly minted CEO of Modbook Inc, on why users would choose a Modbook over an iPad. Modbook Inc. is technically a new company, but you have probably heard the name before—the Modbook, a MacBook transmogrified into tablet form with a pen and drawing tablet built into the display, was sold through Haas' previous company, Axiotron from 2008 until about 2010. At that time, the company and its Modbook products largely fell off the radar, and most users assumed it was due to the then-new iPad that had made its debut in early 2010. But that was not the case, according to Haas, who has now come out of hiding in order to reintroduce the world to his creation.

"When I started Axiotron, we had a great team and the company was fine. We had a great run until we went public—two weeks later, Lehman Brothers went belly up and took us down along with the financial system. Access to capital was a huge problem," Haas told Ars. "In order for me to continue on my vision of creating a tablet computer for the creative industry, the only way to do it was to create a new company."

Indeed, we had spent nearly two years trying to dig into what was going on at Axiotron. Aside from the "iPad killed the Modbook" theory, we had begun to hear rumors that Axiotron had run into legal issues—possibly even with Apple. But those rumors were completely false, contends Haas. He says that he and Modbook have always had a healthy relationship with Apple, and that there were no legal issues involved in the company's two-year stumbling block. "As soon as the ModBook came out, Apple came to us and asked us to become a proprietary solution provider," he said. "That didn't end up working out, but we were moved to a developer contract. We are now an Apple 'developer' and we have a great working relationship."

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A child has just keeled over from exhaustion on my factory floor. I could have stopped it; when they get to that state you can give them a glass of water and they get straight back to the production line. But I've found it's cheaper to give them training instead of water. If a kid's looking peaky I can spend a little cash to have him trained up. He'll get over his exhaustion and he'll work faster. It's a win/win situation. If I let them work to the cusp of collapse before training them I maximise the amount of time they can work. I don't have to hire new workers and I don't need to waste money on a water fountain.

Littleloud's Sweatshop has me making decisions like this all the time. Do I hire older, specialised workers or just go the brute force route of creating a large (but cheap) child workforce? There's even an elegance to it, finding methods within the rules of the game to win. The factory floor is like a black box in which anything goes.

It's a similar approach that led to the largest financial crash the world has ever seen. The events of 2008 are still something that experts don't fully understand, and for the large majority of people something barely comprehended. As we learn more about the events that led to the crash, then the more parallels arise between the unregulated systems of greed that led to the crisis and the systems in the games that we play. The tools game makers employ to allow and encourage players to shed their ethics and business sense are present throughout the markets involved with the crash.

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