Apple's MacBook Air: evolution, not revolution

As I write this it's a little after noon Eastern Time on Jan. 15. I'm sitting in front of my computer (a Mac of course) watching two different live blogs coming from people watching the Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld 2008. I'm watching to see what, if any, "big" announcements Steve will make.

There was a, for Apple, reasonable level of hype leading up to this talk. Not like last year when everyone knew that the iPhone was coming (even if they did not know what an iPhone was). Most of the buzz this time was about a possible "ultra portable."

A third of the way through the 90 minutes that was projected for the event and there was not anything all that major announced: wireless backup for Macs at under US$500 for a TB, some new features for the iPhone and iTouch, and movie rentals through iTunes. Now he is talking about an updated Apple TV that supports HD and does not need a computer.

An hour into the talk Steve introduced the MacBook Air - the "world's thinnest notebook." It's not my dream machine but it's very nice - more of an incremental improvement than something that creates a whole new mold-breaking concept.

Small, light and very thin, focused on wireless (e.g., no built-in Ethernet but a USB-to-Ethernet adapter), solid state or rotating disk, optional external optical drive, multi-touch trackpad, good battery life - all good things. But the MacBook Air section of the Apple Web site seems to indicate that the memory cannot be expanded and maybe that the battery cannot be changed. (There is no ordering option for additional memory and there's no listing for an extra battery.) All in all, a very good laptop that will likely boost the rate of increase in Apple's laptop market share (which was already projected to be almost 30% this quarter, even before the announcement).

But I am a bit disappointed. The MacBook Air is no iPhone. This is not a product that will change the definition of a class of products like the iPhone did to smart phones. That does not mean that I think that Apple's role as the primary innovation engine is over, far from it. In this case Apple has taken a concept that others have explored (a thin, small-ish laptop without an optical drive) and applied real design skills. Putting a MacBook Air alongside a Dell Latitude D430 is to embarrass the Dell. But Apple has not created a new concept for portable computing with the MacBook Air. Maybe next time.

I guess I've gotten jaded. In the last few years there have been just too many 'change-the-world' innovations from Apple. From OSX (real Unix for the rest of us) to the iPod (redefine portable music players) to iTunes (redefine the business practices of the music industry) to the iPhone (redefine smart phones) Apple has been on quite a streak.

The MacBook Air is not in that class but it looks rather good. I've already sent my query about availability to the university store. And, come to think of it, it may redefine my mode of operation from 'carry a laptop when you need it' to carry the laptop all the time' - for me, a mini revolution.

Disclaimer: Harvard has watched many revolutions, both mini and major, but has expressed no opinion on the MacBook Air or on Apple's impact, so the above is my ramble.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Bradner

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?