Something In The Air

… or maybe the water.

Unless you were living under an Internet rock, you likely know that today was Keynote Tuesday. That is, the day Apple CEO Steve Jobs tells us loyal apple fanbois what we will be spending our money on this year.

The star of this year’s show was the Macbook Air, a thin, light laptop designed to fit somewhere inbetween the Macbook and the Macbook Pro. At first I was wow’d by the Air. Jobs, as always, is the consummate showman and I will admit that I bought into the reality distortion field for a little bit. Then the “air” cleared and I began to think about what the Macbook Air really is. So let’s take a look at the Macbook Air and where it fits.

  • Maximum thickness of 0.76”. The Macbook is a quarter inch or so higher at 1.08”.

  • Weight of 3 lbs. The Macbook, a slightly heavier 5 lbs.

  • Battery life is slightly longer at 5 hours. The Macbooks average between 3-4 in my experience. However, the battery is not removable, whereas I could carry several Macbook batteries with me.

  • For $1200 more, you can get a solid state drive.

  • 2GB of memory, and only 2GB of memory. The Macbook comes in at 1GB standard, but can be upgraded to 4GB.

In my opinion, these are the areas where the Air wins. Now, let’s look at where it loses.

  • 1.6ghz / 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo. The Macbook slides in at betwen 2.0 and 2.2 ghz.

  • Storage is an 80GB 4200rpm PATA drive, whereas the Macbook boasts an 80GB 5400rpm SATA drive. Granted you can get a 64gb SSD drive with the Air, but for $1200 I can’t believe that anyone other than the biggest fanboi will be buying those for that price.

  • The Macbook can be upgraded to as much as 4GB of memory. The Air is stuck at 2GB, and since it’s sodered onto the board, it’s stuck there forever.

  • 1 USB plug? No onboard Ethernet or FireWire? No mic plug?

  • No optical drive. Granted, you can buy an external drive, and you can use that boot from another computer thing, but that doesn’t help you if you have no other computer.

Now, Brian Moon often tells me that I don’t think from the point of view of an average user because I’m not an average user. While it’s true that I’m not your average user (as a computing professional, I have needs generally beyond most consumer computing gear), I like to think that I can look at all choices and choose the best one. In this case I just can’t understand where this product is being targeted.

I just don’t understand how anyone could want to trade off all the features you get with the regular ol’ Macbook for what is essentially a small gain in dimensions and weight, and the “wow!” factor, especially when all those added features on the Macbook come in at $300 less for the top-end Macbook model. At that price, you could upgrade the memory and buy an extra battery and still come in less than the base price of the Macbook Air, with the only tradeoff being that it’s 0.32” thicker and 2lbs heavier.

I can’t believe that any informed consumer is going to choose a feature poor Macbook Air when the standard Macbook, at between $300 and $750 less, is just so obviously a better deal. Brian Tiemann said it best: “a ridiculously overpriced, feature-poor, and generally useless pig of an idea.”

Also, I wonder if Steve Jobs knew Randy Newman was going to go all Michael Moore on everyone. Someone please be sure he never sees a microphone again!

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