My Take on Ted’s MacBook Dilemma

| Editorial

Ted Landau and I are in the same boat. We’d like a Macintosh with less weight, but one that’s full featured when it comes to creating content. The current MacBook Pros are too heavy, and the iPad isn’t quite there for content creation. Is this something Apple cares about? Here’s my own take on it all.

Ted and I were going to write a joint article, but then decided to have each of us air his thoughts. For starters, I could have written Ted’s article exactly as is, so common are our thoughts on this. The real question, however, is this a problem for lots of Apple customers? Does Apple care? Will there be a fix in terms of a new or revised product?

In my mind, the ideal situation would be a next generation MacBook Air (MBA) with a removable display. When the display is removed, it’s self contained and boots into iOS 4. When connected to the keyboard, it boots from the internal HDD or SSD into Mac OS X. That would require some clever allocation of the logic board design but, hey, miracles at Apple are known to happen.

MBA-2009MacBook Air (June 2009)

This is vaguely related to an Apple patent, recently unearthed, that does something a little different. That patent seems like a red herring to me because an OS selection based on the position of a Mac’s display/lid seems like a very questionable design for a great user experience. Indeed, it’s an opportunity for bumped lids and great frustration.

An Apple netbook, in fact may be a nice device from a practical point of view, and I have written about this in a Hidden Dimensions column. But it wouldn’t be the first time that Apple’s philosophy got in the way of meeting the needs of some customers. The problem, as I see it, is that Apple has been highly focused on denigrating the netbooks in order to promote its iPad. And yet, Apple has a near perfect netbook of its own, the MBA. Apple’s tardiness in taking the next evolutionary step with the MBA hasn’t exactly helped those of us who would like, right now, to have a lightweight new MacBook Air with, say, an i3/i5 that can handle more than 2 GB of RAM and weigh quite a bit under 3 pounds.

I am pleased with the rumors that Apple is working on a smaller (and presumably lighter) MacBook Air with an 11.6-inch screen. After all, when at home or in the office, it would likely be connected to a much larger Cinema display. When on the road, it would provide all the Mac OS X essentials that we need for content development, whatever our profession is.

I’ve heard, informally, that Apple sells a few hundred thousand MBAs a year. That’s a guess that could be way off. But a number in that range pales in comparison to 13 million Macs per year at the current clip. Perhaps the MBA is doomed to extinction with the expectation that a more mature iPad can take on its content creation and multi-tasking duties. I think it’ll happen in time, but like Mr. Landau and many others who travel a lot, I suspect a next generation MBA would be most welcome in the near term.

I’d hate to see Apple kill the MBA outright. Perhaps, instead, it has taken some time (since June 2009) for key technologies to mature so that Apple can offer us a Mac OS X solution as amazing as the MBA was when it was first introduced. That is, if Apple can pry its collective mind away from the iPad.

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12 Comments Leave Your Own

MonkeyT

Ultimately, we’re going to see what is effectively an iOS iPad with a dock (the dock will add Mac OS support, a keyboard, permanent storage and access to external devices via ports the iPad will never have ) - together, they will make a decent laptop.

vpndev

There is definitely a place for a smaller MacBook Air. People who want it at the current 13” size should get MacBook Pro

If the 11.6” model ships next Wednesday I’ll be first in line.

Gareth Harris

Besides my desktop macpro with 30” screen, 17” macbook pro, iphone 3g, etc.,
I acquired an iPad 3g w wireless keyboard for development purposes.
I am aiming at custom apps, web apps and databases.

I have found that the iPad comes surprising close to doing all I need to do away from my office.

My main complaints are clumsy usability issues. Apple needs to do lot of work to make desktop menu features available on the iPad, for example. Although the new user interface sets a whole new usage paradigm for the non-geek, the fit and finish of mac software is missing. Even with a keyboard, many keystrokes are missing.
An example of this is the lack of built-in within page search on Safari.
And then there are problems with external screen displays for presentation.
Printing, organizing content, exchanging content need more work.
We should not have to buy third party apps to accomplish basic functions.
The iPad needs a lot more polish. It is currently as crude as MS software.

Finally, one of my goals is to place iPads in my non-geek clients’ hands for in the field work in factories and warehouses. The ability of the iPad to stand alone as the clients’ only computer or at least connect to MobileMe as a base station, needs support.

Gary Noter

What would be best to occur is:
1) The MacPad; has a Touchscreen, up to 512 SSD and 2GB RAM, boots into Mac OS X
2) Hosts iOS 4, thus all those iApps are available (e.g. iBootCamp)

So let it be written; so let it be done.


GN

~ I don’t have an MBA, just yer basic BS ... hahaha!

dlstarr7

Wait for the Macbook Air (loaded with OSX) that the screen is detachable which becomes an iPad running iOS4.

Tiger

The issues everyone seems to be dancing around are plenty.
Sure we all want the power of a desktop in the form factor of an iPad, but there are several reasons the iPad doesn’t have them now.

1. Power. The processor is designed for what it is doing, NOT what a laptop does.
2. Heat. The form factor is sufficient for the processor and heat dissipation.
3. Energy. The battery lasts some 10 hours+ doing what it does. If Apple were to tack on ports for USB and Firewire to add devices, the battery will last 1-2 hours.

In essence, the iPad does what it can do. A dock will offer it wider capability, but then again, the dock isn’t portable.

It doesn’t matter what size device Apple comes out with, people always clamor for larger AND smaller forms of it. We saw that with iMacs and MacBook Pros. If you’ve ever held a 17” MBP, you know it’s not really something you want to haul around. Yes, it is a portable desktop replacement. And a MASH unit is a mobile army surgical hospital. Doesn’t mean you want to move it around a lot now, does it.

I do think there will be tweaks to the iPad, but the reality of it is that adding too much more functionality with regards to ports is going to be nearly impossible for the tablet devices.

Why else has nobody been able to come up with a viable iPad killer that actually equals or betters the functionality and efficiency?

See all of the above.

CTOatGFU

I am totally with you on this. For now I accept that the Air is the best option, in fact, I actually gave away my iPad.

Lee Dronick

At the very least you, Ted, and others who considering a MacBook Air, should wait until after the Apple Media Event on 1 September.

webjprgm

The MBA idea where the screen removes to become an iPad sounds really cool, but can’t you already do essentially the same thing by using a remote desktop program on the ipad with an attached keyboard?  Even better if you can use bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  Then someone will make a hinge/case that holds the keyboard and the iPad together so it works like a netbook (if someone hasn’t already).

Of course, that won’t work for doing Mac OS X things on an airplane where there’s no internet access.

I, however, am still in love with the 13” MBP, which is light enough for me and has plenty of power.

vpndev

The remote keyboard thing is OK if iPad does what you need.

In my case I *need* to run a bunch of OS X stuff (x86-based) and App Store just doesn’t cut it. Arm-A4 doesn’t do it either.

I want/need an x86-based Mac OS X small system. The 13” MBP would do in a pinch but it would be a lot better without the optical drive.

As a car designer once said, “Simplicate and add lightness”

vpndev

@Sir Harry Flashman:

p.s. I’m waiting too. I *do* hope to get something lighter than 13 MBP

WetcoastBob

If a MacBook Air had Firewire and enough memory to run Aperture 3 I would go for it in a minute.

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