Love/Hate the Macbook Air

Let’s face it, we mac users are spoiled.

For years, Apple has created laptops that have been a marvel in both design and engineering. Both the Macbook and Macbook Pro overall have changed little over the years because they are just that well designed.

Even the competition has finally realized that design makes a difference and are putting a little more thought into the look of their machines.

Late last year, the rumors started floating around that Apple may release a subnotebook. Everyone started dreaming up what that could be. A lot of folks wanted Apple to bring back the 12″ Powerbook: a machine with all the power of the MBP in a smaller package.

And, if Apple were any other computer manufacturer, like Dell, HP, or Lenovo, that’s exactly what they would have done.

But, Apple, as we all know, likes to do things differently. They may have started with the concept of a 12″ MBP, but then, they wanted to take things farther. What could we do differently from everyone else? What could we live without?

The result: the Macbook Air. Size-wise, it has the same footprint as a standard Macbook. But, it’s ridiculously thin, and weighs only three pounds. What’s different? It has a full size screen (13.3″), a full size keyboard and a full Core2Duo processor.

Alas, the form factor didn’t come without its costs. No optical drive, no security slot, a single usb, and a non-user-replacable battery. The processor is the slowest one available in Apple’s lineup, and the hard drive is an “ipod” drive that spins at a low 4200 rpm.

How did the mac community repsond to this spiffy new machine? Most of them were livid. Many had been patiently waiting for an update to the aging Macbook Pro design and responded like a kid who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas.

I have to admit, the Air is a tempting machine, even though I already have a Macbook Pro. It’s not that the MBP is too heavy to haul around, but it is a bit bulky if you want to grab it and take it to a meeting and/or lunch to do some surfing or writing. I can see how this would have great appeal to travelers. I can still haul the MBP for times when I need the extra power.

And, more importantly, the design will appeal to another group: windows users. Sure some of these folks might use it as their primary machine, even though the Macbook Pro and Macbook are more powerful. But, there are a lot of people that don’t need that much power.

The other point I think a lot of people are missing is that a lot of the cool stuff that went into the Macbook Air will trickle down into the other lines.

1) Smaller form factor: I can see the new Macbook Pro line (which I think we’ll see at the WWDC) having a tapered wedge design as well. It wouldn’t be as thin as the Air, but I could see it starting at .76″ and tapering down to about .30″. It would still have all of the ports we’d expect, but weigh in at under 5 lbs for the 15″ and just about 6 lbs for the 17″.

2) Multi-touch: Eventually, both lines will get the multi-touch track pad.

3) LED screens: MBPs already have them, but I can see the Macbook getting them eventually as well. I don’t see that happening before next year, when the Macbook will get its redesign. By then, I would bet on a new Air as well.

4) Keyboard: Like it or not, Apple loves the Macbook keyboard design. The MBP’s will get them in the new design. Hopefully, though, they will be either aluminum, or give us the option of picking a black or white keyboard.

Whether you like the Macbook Air or not, you have to admit that it’s a brilliantly designed machine. It may not be the machine for you, but at least you can look forward to the lessons learned from the Macbook Air being applied to the other laptop lines in the near future.

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