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Deep thoughts on thin
You’ve all heard about the MacBook Air by now, I’m sure. Bad name aside (MacBook Air? Seriously? Is this the best they could come up with?), there are some who wonder who would buy it, or whether it’ll be a flop.
Yes, people will buy it. No it won’t be a flop.
First, let’s quickly look at who might benefit from something like the MacBook Air:
Having been a student not too long ago, I can tell you that hauling books from class to class all day is no fun. After a while, you feel every single pound, every single ounce of what you’re carrying. Sure, two pounds doesn’t seem like much weight, but when you’re loaded down with books, you’ll take whatever weight reduction you can get. There are a couple drawbacks, however. Since it’s a 13.3-inch screen like the MacBook, it won’t take up any less desk space, which is disappointing and makes it a little less pleasant to use on the tiny desks in lecture halls (I’d love it if Apple brought back something the size of the 12” PowerBook G4, but so it goes). Also, the lack of an Ethernet jack is a drawback, since dormitories typically have Ethernet jacks in every room, and some schools may have regulations against the use of WiFi networks in the dorms. Also, the MacBook Air would not make an ideal primary computer, so it should only be considered by students who can afford to own two computers.
If you travel frequently and need something thin and light to take with you on the plane, and for giving PowerPoint/Keynote presentations, the MacBook Air may be worth considering. Keep in mind, though, that you would probably want to buy an airline power adapter (if those are available for the MacBook Air), since battery can’t be swapped, limiting your productivity on long flights. Aside from that, though, Macbook Air would make a great travel companion for the businessperson on the go.
A nice choice because of its weight, but if you want to watch a DVD on the plane, you’d have to spring for the external SuperDrive. See also: the caveat regarding the battery on long flights/car rides.
The intrepid blogger
For bloggers jumping from trade show to trade show, the MacBook Air would probably make an awesome mobile companion for posting entries to your blog. The 5-hour battery would be sufficient, being that you would likely use it for maybe 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, with plenty of juice to last through the day (My MacBook with its typical 3 hours of battery life handles a day at Macworld just fine). Also, you’ll be able to carry two more pound of swag versus a typical MacBook. Also, for this sort of task, the lack of an optical drive and the slow hard drive should not be a major issue. The one issue I could see arising is posting video content, since, as far as I know, most DV camcorders use Firewire, which is absent on the MacBook Air (probably because they couldn’t fit the Firewire chipset in the motherboard). Also, there’s the possibility of limited WiFi access, so you may want to buy the USB-Ethernet adapter just in case.
The coffeehouse hopper
You know who you are: you sit in the corner of your local café or coffeehouse, sipping on that double decaf mocha with chocolate sprinkles, reading Digg or Drudge Report, or...whatever. If this sounds even remotely like you, you may want to consider the MacBook Air. Not only is it lightweight and easy to take with you, but it sure is sexy. Maybe you’ll finally get that cute barista to actually engage in conversation with you.
Hey, it could happen.
As some of you know, I spent a little over two years selling computers at the UC Berkeley campus computer store. A good number of our customers would come in looking for a lightweight notebook. Some of them consider buying a Mac, but turn to Windows when they realize that the lightest Mac laptop is in the neighborhood of five pounds. If the MacBook Air can convince even some of those people to buy it instead of an equivalent PC, then it has done its job.
Will I buy one? Probably not. In each of the examples I gave above, the MacBook Air makes a great secondary machine. I use my laptop as my primary computer. As such, I need a full-featured laptop with an optical drive and more ports. And I sure don’t need another laptop. If I owned an iMac or something, however, it would be a different story.
There are plenty of people with a desktop at home who just want a mobile companion to take with them for email, web browsing, word processing, and such. This is the MacBook Air’s target market. It’s a market that exists.
I’ve seen some people compare the MacBook Air to the PowerMac G4 Cube of years past, which flopped. The two products couldn’t be more different. The Cube tried to be both a consumer Mac and a pro Mac. It tried to be a machine for the iMac crowd who wanted more power and a choice in monitors. The problem with the cube was that the iMac crowd stuck with the iMac (until the craze faded, anyway), as they couldn’t justify the additional cost when the iMac got the job done. Basically, with the Cube, Apple needed to deliver a Mac mini; a low-cost desktop Mac where users could hook up their own monitors. This is not what we got. Thus, cool as the Cube was, it was doomed to failure, because it wasn’t what the market wanted.
On the other hand, ultraportable notebooks are very popular right now, and a market already exists for it. And the MacBook Air, despite some notable omissions, still is not that bad for what it is. I’m with Gruber on this one: the MacBook Air may not become Apple’s best-selling Mac ever, but it will sell.