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Losing my urge for Air

When I first heard that Apple had introduced a 3-lbs Mac, technolust heated my blood. But from my very first poking-arounds about it, my tremors of desire have quieted.

On the basis of preliminary reports, it sounds like Apple threw everything overboard in order to achieve a single design ukase: Thou shalt be the thinnest! No CD/DVD player, yet another freakish video out, no ethernet port, a battery that requires a trip to the factory to be replaced (and given that my MacBook battery is failing rapidly after 8 months…), a single USB port, no firewire port, no good way to plug in an external drive (assuming you have a mouse plugged into your USB port), no mic input, yet another unique power supply. Dongle city! And the Mac Air ain’t cheap.

Thinness is an aesthetic criterion, not a utilitarian one. Art triumphs over usefulness yet again, driven by Steve “One Button” Jobs.

Good. I can enjoy my MacBook unruffled by envy. Well, at least not much envy.

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17 Responses to “Losing my urge for Air”

  1. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2008/01/15/disappointed-in-the-macworld-keynote/

  2. http://www.aquick.org/blog/2008/01/16/what-the-apple-keynote-should-have-delivered/

  3. I doubt the Air will fly. What I do think is that the Apple TV product has become something compelling. I sense a tipping point in the television/movie rental businesses. If I can get TV shows a la carte, and movie rentals directly to my TV…plus youtube and flickr…and my music and photos from the computer down the hall… I think you have something there. And at under $250, I’m sold.

    Next we’ll see what Netflix and LG have in store for us.

  4. I too am not interested in getting a Mac Air, but I have to take issue with one point: Why would you use the (one) USB port for a mouse? Why not just use a wireless mouse instead (i.e., using the Mac Air’s Bluetooth capability) and preserve the USB port for something else?

  5. What is it with Apple and batteries? My MacBook battery also rapidly deteriorated in a short amount of time. And the battery issues are what keep me from buying a new iPod – I should be able to replace the battery myself (without buying special tools and spending hours trying to crack the case).

  6. “Art triumphs over usefulness yet again”. Judging by the choice of colors for your blog, you are not the best person to voice your opinion on art vs. usefulness. :)

  7. I agree that the MacBook Air is very limited. But the word “Air” should give you a hint in how its connectivity is going to work. External disk drives, network, mouse and even keyboard: Everything is going to be connected wirelessly. If you want to jam an ethernet cable into it, an USB drive and an USB connected mouse plus keyboard, what you want isn’t a MacBook Air, but a Mac Pro, iMac or Mac Mini. It’s not wired and not supposed to be wired for a reason.

    The non replacable battery is a PITA, I agree, but I guess it’s the price both Apple and buyers have to pay to get the form factor and design of the Air. With a replacable battery comes an overhead and I guess that’s an overhead Apple’s design department wasn’t willing to pay.

  8. George, ouch! OTOH, I didn’t use my awesome powers of aesthetic judgment to criticize the Air. My point was that at Apple aesthetics seems to have gotten in the way of functionality (yet again), a point that Asbjørn makes, albeit inadvertently (I think): The wirelessness of the Air provides no (?) practical benefit, only impediments, although, yes, it looks damn cool and is way damn thin.

  9. The Air is a SUB-notebook. It’s necessarily going to have less than what regular notebooks have, which in turn have less than what desktops have.

    Re. the battery, the replacement cost is exactly the same as a regular Macbook battery, with complimentary installation and safe disposal of your old battery from Apple. Given that the Air seems geared to be much easier on battery life, you’ll be looking at fewer cycles and possibly a longer life in exchange for the time it will take to drop it off at the store and get the battery replaced, in say, a year or 18 months after purchase.

    Re. the optical drive. Once again, SUB notebook, and even on my Macbook Pro I use the optical drive maybe 10x a year, for real. That’s me, of course, and I know that a lot of folks who travel like being able to watch and rent movies for flights. By not opting for an optical drive in this model at the same time as Apple makes movie rentals available, they’ve shown that they think the future is wireless, and are wiling to start taking steps there. Years ago I bashed Apple mercilessly for not including a 3.5 floppy drive in the iMac, only to realize later just how far ahead of the game they were thinking. By that time, I was personally using floppies almost never, instead emailing attachments that were sometimes bigger than what a floppy could hold. I think this is the same kind of evolution.

    The Air is for people who want Apple’s hottest aesthetic and something to compliment a desktop at home or the office, and is easy to port around while still having a respectable amount of power. It is, I’ll say it again, not a notebook computer and not a desktop computer, and shouldn’t be compared on those grounds. The snorting and grumbling about what it doesn’t have (not you, David, I’m thinking of more strident reviews) will soon give way to a fair bit of wow when the Air starts arriving in people’s hands.

  10. Except … what does the battery life look like in real life when you’ve got all of that wireless stuff connected to it? Just having the bluetooth headset connected to my phone without even using it causes the battery to drain about 50% faster. When you add lots of wifi and other bluetooth peripherals to it, how long is that non-replaceable battery really going to last? How long is it going to last a year from now, knowing that Li-ion batteries typically lose a large fraction of their maximum life after the first year?

  11. Re. the battery, the replacement cost is exactly the same as a regular Macbook battery, with complimentary installation and safe disposal of your old battery from Apple.

    User-replaceable batteries are available from third parties for cheaper (both Apple and third-party brands), and Macbook Air batteries are not.

  12. Todd, I get your point and it’s a good one. Of course a sub notebook is going to have less than a notebook. Atoms take up room. But that wasn’t my point. Apple had to make decisions about what not to include based on a decision about the value and purpose of the Air. Apple did not (imo) make decisions based on what people will want to do with the Air but rather on what it should look like. If Apple had instead focused on making it light & portable, but not necessarily thin, the Air would have had more ports and a replaceable battery. If they couldn’t figure out how to put in a DVD player without making it heavy, then personally I think that’s a reasonable tradeoff. But the tradeoffs Apple made purely for the aesthetics of thin make the Air unappealing to me … except aesthetically, which was my point.

    BTW, as a user, I don’t want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to standards. I want a plain old vga out and an old-fashioned ethernet port because that’s where the middle of the curve — AKA the world — is.

    “Ahead of the curve” is just another word for dongles.

  13. I think of the Air as a transitional product on the way to something that fills the gap between the iPhone and the MacBook. I agree aesthetics were the primary determining factor in the creation of the Air.

    Personally, I would not buy one. Like others, I need firewire, ethernet, DVD drive, etc. Wireless everything is coming soon, but is not quite here yet. I know someone’s got to go first and I’m sure the Air will find buyers. I’m not sure it will last for more than one or two product cycles until it’s redesigned entirely.

    When wireless internet is provided as a standard feature of upscale cars (i.e., you can’t sell a Lexus, BMW, Mercedes unless it already has it installed), that’s when wireless will truly have begun to arrive as the standard. Right now, the great majority of computers are still using wries for power, video, internet, etc., etc.

    For some reason, the Air reminds me of the Cube which was also very cool looking, but not terribly functional.

  14. I really wanted an Air because of the SSD option. But, yikes, $3100. I’ll wait for SSD to become a $300 option in a MacBook, which will happen within a couple years, I hope.

  15. I was hoping it would be a pure-Flash device. I’ve lost two PowerMacs to hard drive failures in two years; no moving parts has a good ring to it!

    As it is, I don’t see the point. My 17″ is a dream visually; I don’t think I could ever use a 13″ again. And heavy? I’ve never thought about it.

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