Andy’s Q&A with Apple for MacBook Air & Time Capsule

| Columns and Opinions

This wasnit the greatest Apple briefing Iive had. Apple didnit make anyone available to answer iPhone or iTunes Store questions, plus I didnit have the usual 45 minutes or so. Instead, I focused on Time Capsule and the MacBook Air.

As usual, any questions that I didnit cover in the briefing were submitted via e-mail & I expect answers overnight. For now, here are some selected highlights. Any factual errors are doubtless the result of poor transcription on my part.

Time Capsule: itis physically indistinguishable from the run-of-the-mill Airport base station.

How does it appear on the network? Can I use it for more than just Time Machine backups?

"It shows up as just another networked drive. So anything you can do with a network drive can be done with Time Capsule. Windows machines can access it as well."

"We think most people will use it as a backup device only."

What happens if I plug in an external USB drive? Will that volume become available to Time Machine?

"Iill get back to you on that."

MacBook Air: Itis much more impressive in person. Itis light, yes, but itis extremely solid. In many ways it feels like a solid block of milled aluminum.

The contours of the case are quite sinuous; curved edges everywhere with flattened edges where the top and bottom half of the machine meet. For all that, it truly doesnit feel like a subcompact notebook. Because, well...it isnit. It feels very much like a lightweight, flattened MacBook.

It also would appear to be the least user-servicable portable Apple has ever made.

The battery isnit replaceable? What will it cost to get a new one?

"Itill be replaced at the Apple Store. Itill cost the same as a new MacBook battery ($129) and thereill be no charge for the installation."

How long will the battery live?

"I donit have hard figures handy, but itis consistent with our other portables."

As a former owner of an aluminum PowerBook, should I worry about WiFi reception?

"Test it out at home when you get yours. Clearly weire aware of the challenges of metal."

That would be a great name for a VH1 show: "The Challenges Of Metal."

"(Laughter)"

About the solid-state optional drive. How does that option affect battery life and speed?

"Itis sort of a squishy answer. Obviously things like startups and launches will just plain fly. But then you get to the sort of operations where nothing relies on reads and writes, and thereis no performance bump at all."

"The biggest advantage is simply ino moving partsi...making it more durable and consume less power."

How many read-writes can I do on this $1000 drive before it starts to fail?

"Let me get back to you."

No Ethernet?

"This really was designed for the wireless world. Anybody who has the choice would rather go untethered."

"Weill be selling this $29 USB Ethernet adapter for people who still need copper."

(itis a tiny USB fob)

The Air doesnit ship with an optical drive. Itis available as a $99 external, but the machine will ship with magical software that lets the Air pretend that the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC is its own.

Will this utility work if I need to boot from a disc, install new system software, run Disk Utility, that sort of thing?

"The software has special modes for those special situations. It supports installs, remote boot, all that sort of stuff."

What types of media are supported? Does it work with Blu-Ray, for instance?

"Iim checking into that right now."

Can it write as well as read?

"No, itis strictly a read-only solution."

"It works in very nearly any read-only optical situation. It wonit play commercial movies across a network, though, and some games are reliant on inserting a disc locally."

The Airis large trackpad supports iPhone-like gestures.

So it seems like Appleis added some new language to the Mac UI vocabulary. Are these gestures formalized? Where are they documented?

"The best place to learn about the gestures is right in Keyboard and Mouse Preferences. There are movies that explain everything."

"The demo up on Apple.com also explains it all."

What sort of application support is required? Does the OS know how to translate a pinch or a triple-finger drag into the appropriate corresponding action in an app, or do apps have to be written especially to take advantage of gesture input?

"Weire not prepared to talk about third party support today. Some things are supported right in the Finder, like Cover Flow...and other things like iPhoto are implemented at the application level."

How much power comes out of that one USB jack? Will I be able to use external USB drives that require me to plug into two jacks, so that it can draw twice as much current for the drive?

"We do drive extra current out the port, to support that external optical drive."

What kind of a frame is holding the Air together? The first thing Iid be concerned about with an ultra-thin notebook like this would be that over time, the frame is going to rack.

"Rest assured that we pay close attention to the robustness of the Air."

"A lot of the aluminum in the case is actually structural."

I have the Air in my hands and am getting a sense of the heft of the metal. It doesnit feel chintzy in the least.

"Yeah, you know, when you take a look at some subnotebooks like (name not recorded) itis so easy to twist the screen. Because itis all just plastic inside."

I shift my hands in a meaningful way.

"Donit twist the screen...!"

Now, now...that would have been mean.

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