The MacBook Air

MacBook AirApple’s latest release follows the standard formula that has been so effective for the last few years. We touched on the MacBook Air in a post about MacWorld 2008 last week, but all we had was a link to the ad and the guided tour. Having read more about the new notebook, we can offer more information for those interested.

The Air does seem to be the thinnest notebook. The well planned unveiling of the Air, removing it from a standard office envelope, illustrated that point quite well. At its thinnest, the Air is a slender 0.16″ (4mm). That measurement balloons to 0.76″ (~19mm) at it’s thickest point near the hinges, measurements that even make Kate Moss look like she belongs on The Biggest Loser. For comparison, Dell and Sony have notebooks that measure 0.8″ (~20mm) and 1.0″(~25.5mm), respectively. The Air is also quite lightweight, tipping the scales at an amazing 3lbs (1.36kg).

So, the Air is light and skinny, which is great, but what can it do? The Air is available with Intel Core 2 Duo chips (1.6-GHz or 1.8-GHz for $300 more) that were specially built at Apple’s request. The chips are in the Merom family of Intel chips. Along with the unique chip, there are other aspects of the Air that are unique; not only can you not upgrade the memory, but the battery cannot be replaced by the user. These are side effects of the slim design. The 2GB of RAM should be sufficient for the lifespan of the notebook, probably around 2 years or so, but many users will shy away from the Air when they find out they can’t take advantage of a second, back-up battery for extended portable/remote use.

Built for wireless, the Air has taken away some standard ports, like Ethernet (who needs to plug in to a LAN, right?), and according to Jobs, optical drives are a thing of the past. No DVD/CD-ROMS on the Air. With the Remote Disc feature, the Air can connect to another MacBook and use the optical drive on that system for software installs or load tunes.

It’s tough to say who this device is for. It cannot hook in to a standard office network, which at this point, are still typically wired. Remote users can’t go a full 8 hour day using the Air, and even if they could, they would be unable to burn their results to a DVD to back-up, share, or ship what they’ve been working on. A trendy student might be interested, hoping to minimize the bulk in their backpack, but it’s a bit pricey for the average learner living off a dorm room budget.

This type of innovation is the start and will help promote smaller, thinner devices and help bring the cost of these devices down, but personally, I wouldn’t be an early adopter. The sacrifices made for the sake this waifish devices are the same reasons I wouldn’t be interested. For more information on the MacBook Air, see the Computerworld FAQ: Everything you need to know about the MacBook Air.