This has been a banner year for Apple. April saw the eagerly anticipated release of the iPad. June had the new iPhone 4’s debut. Now, there’s a new breath of fresh Air from Apple.
Apple admits that they learned a lot from the success of the iPad when designing the MacBook Air. It revolves around flash memory, which allows a nearly instantaneous boot, as opposed to my PC based Asus laptop, which boots fairly quickly, but still lags around the 20 second mark. Much like the iPad, it comes in different sizes, ranging from 64 gigs of flash memory (the upper end of the fabled iPad) to 256 gigs. Now, many will complain that it is too small for a laptop, but there are many reasons to consider “downgrading” to the Air. And if anyone thinks that concept is insane, look at the success of the Wii, which eschewed the common gaming wisdom, and went with a frequently labeled underpowered hardware, but now dominates the gaming world.
One of the benefits to the Air is its battery. Because Apple removed a standard hard drive, they opened up room for a bigger battery than is standard in a laptop. It is reported to last 5 hours of usage, while my laptop lags out after about 3 hours . But the really impressive feat is when the Air goes into standby mode. It reportedly can sit in standby for upwards of a month, before it needs a charge. Now admittingly, I don’t know anyone who won’t touch their laptop for a month but in case of an emergency, this is an impressive concept. Meanwhile, my PC based machine can go a day or two tops, before I need to find a power source.
Another big concept (though perhaps this should be labeled little) to the Air is its size. They are two models. One comes with an 11 inch screen, making it a little bigger than the iPad, while the other has a 13 inch screen. Both however are incredibly light, weighing in at 2 pounds. It’s also incredibly thin, which will make transporting it a lot easier. In spite of its small size, though, it does feature 2 USB ports, allowing you to connect with other devices, and if you opt for the larger model, there is a SD reader also for easy picture and video uploads.
Finally, the Air has some of the other functions becoming standard for Apple products. These include Facetime, allowing you to chat with your iPhone 4 toting friends from your laptop. There is also a multi-touch capability using the trackpad version of the mouse. I must admit this seems like a no-brainer, and I am now disappointed with my laptop’s mouse. It took me years to appreciate the trackpad on a laptop, and now I wish it could do more. And although it won’t come with Mac OS X Lion, the new operating system will come with support for Apps from the App store on your computer, which would be mighty nice.
The Air is not necessarily cheap by laptop standards. The base model runs $999, and if you get the 13 inch 256 gig model, you need to plan on spending $1599. However, Apple is betting on the fact the people will be wowed by its portability and blown away by its speed. Look at Apple’s other releases of the year, and this may seem like a safe bet. Whether it will change how we see laptops or just be seen as the iPad’s bigger, less attractive brother, only you can tell.