Living in the Future

MacBook AirWe’re living in the future, and I’ll tell you why: if you’re drinking water and breathing air in a time when a Steve Jobs-helmed Apple Inc. maintains stock keeping units for both a handheld computing device and an ultra-portable sub-notebook (the thinnest notebook on the market, no less), then clearly you’ve left behind the constraints of late 20th and early 21st century life and entered the wide, wonderful world of science fiction.

Back then, back in the distant past, Apple only ever entertained products that could fit inside a conveniently simplistic matrix of desktops and laptops of two grades: consumer or professional. To ask for a device of a more unusual order — something of the sort that even Apple’s less prolific rivals were regularly shipping even a decade ago — was a farcical daydream. Want to carry around an Apple-branded data device in your pocket? Want to tote around a Macintosh laptop all day without bringing on spinal injury? It just wasn’t done, son.

But now, today, we’ve got the MacBook Air, a laptop so thin and light it’s named after a shoe. At just three pounds, it fits inside a manila envelope, and is practically guaranteed to bring about envy in those with heavier laptops for at least the next three months. It’s not perfect — no Ethernet port, no FireWire port, and no swappable battery — but you know what? I’ll take it. After all those years of unrequited pining for a sub-notebook, the future looks just fine.

  1. “…where the air is rare — at least up there!” I remember owning a Sony Vaio 10″ laptop in 1999 thinking that technology couldn’t possibly get any tighter (and then there was Apple).

    Honestly, I am impressed with the way the company continues to innovate. The new Macbook Air is a solid addition to their current line-up, and if I had a need — maybe I would get down with one.

    If I had kids, likely this would be something I would add to the household mix. Everything serves a purpose (if you let it). The right piece of hardware for the right scenario.

    This would be a solid day-trip type system for me. Tag-team that with an iPhone and likely i’d be all set. I do look forward to seeing an upgrade for this unit — CPU beyond 2.0 ghz with 3 or 4GB of memory.

    The solid state drive is the business! I recently saw one of those in the new Dell subs. Do they come larger than 64GB though? 80 would probably be beneficial later on.

    All said, I am impressed with how Apple continues to rock their own boat, given their niche.

  2. Please… 4 years ago:
    2 USB’s, 1 Firewire 400 (iLink), expansion card, same kind of keyboards Macbooks’s uses now, and no processor reduced by request…
    Four years ago. Yes, it was expensive, without wifi, but same concept, no optical drive, AMAZING design, extremally thin and FOUR years ago.

  3. khoi, remember how you drooled over the iPhone, just to be kinda pissed a month later?

    no ethernet, firewire or swappable battery?

    those features ain’t a floppy drive on the way to extinction; they’re somewhat necessary.. well, at least for me they are.

  4. I love the way it looks… I was on the bandwagon for the first iMac, and frankly never missed the floppy drive, but I’m having a harder time thinking I could let go of firewire, swappable battery, and optical drive.

    It is *awfully* pretty though.

  5. Khoi, even in the 20th century that image would’ve been a clean 104px wide!

    The things that set this apart — amazing absolutes as opposed to ‘thinner!’ — go absent in your post: 100% solid-state hard-drive; no CD/DVD drive.

    But let’s be serious here. If one thing has been consistent in our visions of the C21st since the 70s it’s transparent screens. So until this futuristic-vaio-zoom/ piece of consumer electronics smashes to pieces on my floor…

  6. German,

    The thing Steve Jobs said in the keynote that sets this apart is compromise. The Vaio you link compromised the screen, keyboard, and hardware to fit into a box that’s bigger than the MacBook Air’s. Apple didn’t compromise on much with the Air, and for much of what they did compromise, they developed solutions (Remote Disk, especially).

    I certainly want one. But it should be said that this couldn’t function as a primary computer for me. I’d need at least a file server as a companion to it (Time Capsule perhaps?), if not a full desktop.

  7. I think that’s the issue with most people. It doesn’t fit your needs so it must be bad.

    If you find a need for a device with these specs than its probably the most beautifully designed thing you own. This isn’t meant to replace your macbook pro, hence the macbook moniker instead.

  8. Does it really count as a sub-notebook? Obviously it’s ‘sub’ in that it’s ridiculously slim and very light, but the footprint is slightly larger than the MacBook (or so I’ve read) which makes it just as unwieldy, however slim and light it might be.

    I know that’s a bit of a terminology quibble – I only mention it because I was hoping for a really wee Mac sub-notebook, on a similar scale to an Eee PC or Everex Cloudbook.

  9. And as far as the “is it sub?” question goes, isn’t one of the general attributes of subs the price? I must admit I’m ot that into the topic, but friends who have subs bought them partially due to the “it’s so cheap I can almost afford to wreck it” price. But why would anyone buy a laptop for only $200 less than a Mac Book Pro, which does far less?

    I haven’t yet been in a situation where sliding my laptop under a door or putting it in a manilla envelope would have been of any use, so I certainly won’t be lining up for an Air.

  10. perfect notebook for business travelers…considering we only do carry-on luggage, packing a notebook that’s the size of a magazine is worth the price

    i could care less about performace, I only need it for Office, internet, and email.

  11. But let us not forget the days before Jobs’ return, when the Apple product matrix looked more like the periodic table of elements. There is something to be said for the simplified consumer/professional grid. I am not opposed to adding a mid-range, though we know not what to call it, or other groups. I think they are doing it right by cautiously adding back to the matrix with strong products when ready.

  12. I’ll just chip in and say I’d still opt for the Toshiba Portegж r500. It’s a tad thicker, but carries more hardware.

    Still, this is not to deny that the Air is a ground breaking notebook development and will surely set the trend for the coming year.

  13. So I mean, are you going to buy it? I really want to, just because of the size, I travel a whole lot. But there are a lot of things that are lacking with the computer.

    I would definitely use it for portable blogging and working on designs.

  14. Apple yet again pushes the tab on extremes. Sure the laptop might not be ideal for everyone, but it’s definitely setting a benchmark for what we can look forward to in the near future with laptop design.

    When Apple came out with the iPhone, all the other cellphone companies followed with proposed ‘iPhone Killers’. Before that, no one had the balls to introduce something as innovative as the iPhone. Now, it’s happened again with the laptop.

    Other companies might pursue the next ‘Air Killer’, but hey, at least someone finally got the ball rolling on ultra portable laptops. Go Apple!

  15. Sean: Compromised hardware? Keyboard was a little reduced because the size of the screen (10″), processor was Pentium M 1,10Ghz, 512RAM and 20GB HD! That was 4 years ago. Until one year ago Macbooks comes from factory with 512 :).
    I guess they didn’t in 14″ because at that moment LCD’s was a lot more expensive than now. But it’s a lot of more merit to do that in a 10″ size with a regular size processor and so many connectors. Oh, and a swappable battery.
    The fact that you can’t change the Macbook Air’s battery is just ridiculous. It’s not an iPod!
    Tell me it’s a nice computer, tell me it’s thin, but don’t call that “innovation” please.

  16. Khoi, is this really suitable for a designer? It has a tiny resolution (relatively), not a lot of storage space, no firewire 400 or 800 (!!!), slow HDD in the base model, only 2 gigs of RAM, and no support for 30″ monitors.

    I can see plenty of use cases for it (and would be interested in one as an out-and-about machine if I had money to burn) but for any serious Photoshop and Illustrator work, it’s not going to pass muster.

  17. I have to disagree. It seems to me Apple designed and created this with the soul purpose of being able to say we have the “thinnest” notebook.


    The thing that irritates me is how much the dumb thing costs and it has no DVD or CD drive. Sure you can PURCHASe an external one, or if you are around another computer you can access it wirelessly and remotely. Yes I know anything I bring up that would need a DVD or CD drive you will give me a solution on how it can tackle the problem wirelessly. I don’t care it still just isn’t practical.

    Besides being able to say look at me I have a THIN notebook and look how light weight it is, I don’t see much more of a benefit to having it.

  18. One thing not many people have picked up on is that it only has one USB port; so you can’t attach your backup hard drive and your iPod at the same time, for example. Meaning you have to buy a Time Capsule to do wireless backups. But then you can’t use your iPod and your camera at the same time…

    Honestly, I’d say that in five years time this would be a great laptop. But while we’re still so dependent on USB cables, it’s a royal pain.

    Looks nice, though.

  19. not everyone needs an optical drive…i don’t remember the last time i opened mine. most software is downloaded these days.

    this notebook isn’t for everyone. if you need more usb ports, firewire, a superdrive, etc etc, apple still sells the macbook and macbook pro. the macbook air is geared towards execs, managers, and heavy business travelers…not people who do heavy production work.

  20. And for the people that complain about lugging around your macbook pro… I suggest exchanging your man bag for a man pack. I’ve made the change recently, and my shoulder isn’t throbbing anymore. 😉

  21. A couple days removed from the release the thing that I find really interesting about the MacBook Air discussion is how many seem to be missing the point. It’s like they thought a sub-notebook would somehow be a smaller replacement for their MacBook Pro.

    Apple has certainly made some (possibly) divisive feature choices, but only time will tell if they made the right ones. The point is that they did not set out to replace their MacBook Pro line. The MacBook Air was created for a niche market, and while it’s not for me, I think it will be very appealing to a lot of people who travel or change offices constantly and don’t tend to tax their machines beyond internet browsing, e-mail, and word docs. I don’t think that’s a demographic to be underestimated.

    ps – I have a laptop and a desktop and can’t remember the last time I used anything other than wireless connections…

  22. I would buy this if I happened to need a new computer now. As it is I have a MacBook that’s about a year old, which has a faster processor, more RAM, an ethernet port, and a CD/DVD burner built in. And I use all of the features which have been left out of the MacBook Air. The place I work does not even employ an IT department, so we don’t have wireless networking there or anything like that. So I have to connect to printers and file servers through Ethernet. And I use my computer to record a lot of things which are then burned onto CDs and played back later for my underlings. So if I had one, I would have to get all the adapters and doohickies too, which would most likely offset the two pounds the lighter notebook had shaved off the load in my man pack. (Jeez that last sentence came out sounding really bad…) So as much as I have been wanting a subnotebook, I guess this isn’t the one for me.

  23. I really don’t think this product will fail. Apple clearly discovered a niche and is satisfying a need (although Apple has been remarkably good at CREATING markets in the past anyhow.) This product definitely fills a gap, that I at least have always seen absent. I stopped caring about optical drives, replaceable battery or wired ethernet ages ago, so this fits SO nicely with my needs.

    Now $3k… that’s another story. Cuz there’s no way I’m going back to a 4200RPM HDD.

  24. I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    I think that I’m going to be buying an eee 10″ when it comes out instead. Because it will be

    <$500!!!! For a bit of hacking, taking to a meetup, reading a PDF on the train, traveling europe and wanting to blog about it the eee is more rugged, has a longer battery life, and is a ton cheaper. I'll still use my Mac as my "main machine" -- but with nearly-disposable computers like this available, i expected more from Apple ( tablet, ports, longer battery, at-least-swappable battery)

  25. I dont like it because its slanted and not flat like the macbook!

    Nobody else seems to care about it !

  26. I dont like it because its slanted and not flat like the macbook!

    Nobody else seems to care about it !

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