The New MacBook Air as THE STEALTH PROJECT

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    Posted: 25 October 2010 10:27 PM

    As a day one, purchaser of the old MacBook Air, version “A” I have followed the product intensively all these years. From day one, the comments were heavy on negatives, and continued that way through version “B” and less so on revision “C”

    So, when this new one came out, I purchased a 13” 1.86Ghz, 4Gg, 128G flash drive model, that should be delivered tomorrow. { you can watch it come off the Assembly line, and on to Pittsburgh in only three days, online tracking is FUN to use…}  So, intensively following all the reviews, and board comments, there is a sea change in perception….almost without exception, there is joy, glee, and surprise and love being rendered on this newer iteration of the lightest portable MacBook.

    From the reviewers, to the early purchasers, I see nothing BUT accolades, satisfied buyers, and recommendations. Given the subtle but significant hints as to future of the product line, it screams out INTEGRATION WITH the SERVER FARM, and the end of the standalone isolated mobile unit.

    Sales are going to be surprisingly HUGE, massively exceeding anyone’s expectations I predict. Even for the smaller unit, 11”, when you show them the sleek aluminum, and then give out the “AMAZING PRICE POINT” of $999….bang, you have their attention. The INSTANT ON, is something that isn’t being fully appreciated, and the boot up times, and application load times have to be seen to be believed. Not to mention a screen that is just a JOY to watch, and as bright as they come at ANY price level!

    Since I have a few iPads, and a new high end iMac along with the most recent 13” MacBook Pro, and the new MacMini, new iTouch and new iPhone 4,I’m in a good position to judge the relative strengths of each, and how each compliments and extends “the experience” beyond the product in isolation.

    I honestly believe we have THE LAPTOP SLEEPER of the upcoming Xmans season here, and sales will be an unforeseen bonus on top of the other hot Apple lines.

    [ Edited: 25 October 2010 11:28 PM by TanToday ]

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    Posted: 25 October 2010 10:34 PM #1

    Wired.com review:  http://tinyurl.com/28yq9my

    Sorry to rain on the parade.  The reviewers main complaint is the 11” is too small for extended typing (viewing the typing). 

    It would behoove that reviewer to note that the MacBook Air 11” fits right in the product/price curve between the iPad and the MacBook Air 13”/MacBook Regular.

    Looking forward to more anecdotal comments from purchasers.

         
  • Posted: 25 October 2010 11:01 PM #2

    I think the Air may end up selling a lot of MacBooks*. The Air is sexy, high tech, aluminum eye-candy. It’s the perfect second computer. But the MacBook and MacBook Pro are still the workhorses. If you’ve got a desktop, get an Air (or an iPad). If you only have one notebook, make it a MacBook (Pro).

    I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but Apple seldom pits two products agains one another at the same price point. I’ll be very, very interested to see what they do technology wise and price wise with the next MacBook upgrade.

    *And iPads, now that I thin about it.

         
  • Posted: 25 October 2010 11:17 PM #3

    FalKirk - 26 October 2010 02:01 AM

    I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but Apple seldom pits two products agains one another at the same price point. I’ll be very, very interested to see what they do technology wise and price wise with the next MacBook upgrade.

    I swear, I wrote the above BEFORE I read John Gruber of Daring Fireball’s post on the same topic:

    The Air?s Spot in the Lineup
    http://daringfireball.net/2010/10/airs_spot_in_lineup

    Gruber’s piece is well worth a read. And he adds a nice little twist at the end of his post that I wish I had thought of:

    Looking at it this way, though, leads to an interesting conclusion. The new MacBook Airs ? particularly the 11-inch model ? don?t compete against the other MacBooks so much as they do the iPad. It?s like a ?pro? solution for the same ?in between a smartphone and a full-size laptop PC? market segment that the iPad sits in. Back to the Mac, indeed.

         
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    Posted: 25 October 2010 11:23 PM #4

    I think they hit a nice price-performance sweet spot on this edition.
    I’m getting a maxed out 13 ” model to displace my 2008 15” Macbook Pro.

    The basic specs are quite close to the MBPro, and I will be happy to have a smaller and lighter unit to run through airports and lug around meetings.

    The iPad has really changed my road computing habits, but I still need a notebook with a decent screen for document creation (Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.).

    And besides,  a new Mac is a great way to commemorate those $300 shares. The way I see it, Apple has paid me handsomely for every Mac and iDevice I own!

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 11:55 AM #5

    Two products at the same price point is not a problem…twelve is. The days of the 1990s with the Performas and Quadras are long gone.

    And there are some subtle and not so subtle differences that separate the iPad, the MBA, and the MB/MBP.

    On the low end, the form factor is very different. Full-sized keyboard versus touch screen.
    On the mid-end, the hard drive and ports make a difference, and on the upper end, it’s the processor that’s obviously different. IMHO, Apple has slotted this into a market they see they can not only make a foot-hold, but dominate. As we all know, Mac users don’t usually just end up with one device. They have many.

    For the commuters on trains, the MBA and the iPad may compete, but if you’re working, you’ll pick the Air and if you’re into entertainment, you’ll pick the iPad.

    It’s pretty simple actually.

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 12:31 PM #6

    Tiger - 26 October 2010 02:55 PM

    Two products at the same price point is not a problem…twelve is. The days of the 1990s with the Performas and Quadras are long gone.

    And there are some subtle and not so subtle differences that separate the iPad, the MBA, and the MB/MBP.

    On the low end, the form factor is very different. Full-sized keyboard versus touch screen.
    On the mid-end, the hard drive and ports make a difference, and on the upper end, it’s the processor that’s obviously different. IMHO, Apple has slotted this into a market they see they can not only make a foot-hold, but dominate. As we all know, Mac users don’t usually just end up with one device. They have many.

    For the commuters on trains, the MBA and the iPad may compete, but if you’re working, you’ll pick the Air and if you’re into entertainment, you’ll pick the iPad.

    It’s pretty simple actually.

    Just a mild difference of opinion, I don’t agree with this:

    Two products at the same price point is not a problem….

    Or with this:

    ...if you’re working, you’ll pick the Air and if you’re into entertainment, you’ll pick the iPad.

    I doubt DawnTreader and others who use their iPads for business would agree. The difference between an iPad and an Air is not just the form factors, it’s the touch/mouse interfaces. They are very different animals.

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 01:05 PM #7

    adamthompson3232 - 26 October 2010 03:41 PM

    I think DT is on the front lines of what will be a slow shift toward using touch interfaces for work.

    I’m surprised to see you say this. I know that you are carefully monitoring the Enterprises adoption of the iPad and I think you’ll agree that it’s be much faster than anyone anticipated.

    adamthompson3232 - 26 October 2010 03:41 PM

    Most people will still want the full keyboard for work purposes (myself included) but I can see this changing as the iPad improves over the next 2-4 years.

    I think it depends on the type of work being done. Like you, I’ve decided that a keyboard is paramount. But then again, writing is my thing.

    But for those who move from place to place and those who touch, the iPad is superior.

    Doctors, for example, probably do a lot of typing, but moving a notebook from place to place was untenable.

    And I think that many people are learning, much to their surprise, that they don’t really need a keyboard, they only need an input device and the iPad is a superior input device in almost every respect except typing. Some examples of that would be inventory management, cash registers, taking attendance, taking orders, etc.

    [ Edited: 26 October 2010 02:01 PM by FalKirk ]      
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    Posted: 26 October 2010 01:31 PM #8

    We currently have both a MacBook Air and an iPad, the typical use cases do overlap to a certain extent.  If the focus of the user is text input, or PC apps the obvious choice is the Air.  One of the keys to the Air compared to many existing laptops is long battery life, light weight & it fits well in your bag.  I use to drag around an IBM Thinkpad and the thing was a well built laptop could run all your apps, but it weighed a ton and battery life sucked.  The iPad is less then ideal for text input.  If you are cutting and pasting articles or have to write longer articles, I almost always end up at the desktop iMac, the screen real estate just makes a huge difference when you have tons of windows open.  For folks stuck with writing long prose on the go the MacBook Air is a great solution.  If your more consumption then creation then you’ll be happier with the iPad.  The iPad will not become a great content creation machine until we overcome the requirement to use a keyboard as the primary input device.  Touch has easily replaced the mouse now we need a better system to capture text.

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 02:08 PM #9

    pats - 26 October 2010 04:31 PM

    We currently have both a MacBook Air and an iPad, the typical use cases do overlap to a certain extent.  If the focus of the user is text input, or PC apps the obvious choice is the Air.  One of the keys to the Air compared to many existing laptops is long battery life, light weight & it fits well in your bag.  I use to drag around an IBM Thinkpad and the thing was a well built laptop could run all your apps, but it weighed a ton and battery life sucked.  The iPad is less then ideal for text input.  If you are cutting and pasting articles or have to write longer articles, I almost always end up at the desktop iMac, the screen real estate just makes a huge difference when you have tons of windows open.  For folks stuck with writing long prose on the go the MacBook Air is a great solution.  If your more consumption then creation then you’ll be happier with the iPad.  The iPad will not become a great content creation machine until we overcome the requirement to use a keyboard as the primary input device.  Touch has easily replaced the mouse now we need a better system to capture text.

    Good stuff.

    Remember the speculation that preceded Jobs’ introduction of the iPad? Everyone had a different idea of what Apple was going to do and, pretty much, everyone was wrong. The thing I focused on was text input. I was sure that Apple had figured out some uber clever way of putting text on a tablet. I was wrong. The on screen keyboard was a massive disappointment for me.

    I remember, I took one day to be disappointed in the iPad. The I re-set my expectations from what I had hoped for to what it actually was. After I looked at what is was, I thought it wasn’t half bad. No way I would have predicted that it would become the massive hit that it has become.

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 04:08 PM #10

    I don’t think there are any clever ways of doing text. Dumb qwerty is very hard to beat performance-wise, and very immediate even for beginners. Punch the key, get the letter, there’s no step 2 - unlike T9 and other predictive systems that require constant vigilance and time-intensive correction when the prediction fails. Personally I keep the autocorrect off on my iPhone and iPad, as you can probably guess from my opinion on this matter.

    I spent a LOT of time researching alternative input methods in the early 00’s. That doesn’t mean that I am right, only that it’s hard to convince me I’m wrong smile

         
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    Posted: 26 October 2010 04:26 PM #11

    dduck - 26 October 2010 07:08 PM

    I don’t think there are any clever ways of doing text. Dumb qwerty is very hard to beat performance-wise, and very immediate even for beginners. Punch the key, get the letter, there’s no step 2 - unlike T9 and other predictive systems that require constant vigilance and time-intensive correction when the prediction fails. Personally I keep the autocorrect off on my iPhone and iPad, as you can probably guess from my opinion on this matter.

    I spent a LOT of time researching alternative input methods in the early 00’s. That doesn’t mean that I am right, only that it’s hard to convince me I’m wrong smile

    I have tried to text on the GF’s phone. It has a full keypad, but is so small I can barely see the letters and the keys are for kids. I don’t like those small phones. Apple got the iphone a perfect size. When I press a key it pops up the letter to confirm, I like that. Granted, I despise texting, so my opinion is in the minority.

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  • Posted: 26 October 2010 04:55 PM #12

    I should rephrase my statement: There are plenty of clever ways to do text input, but few of them can beat dumb qwerty in real-world usage on sufficiently big virtual or real keys. Experts may get better results, but how do you get from beginner to expert, if the learning cliff is too high?

    The big issue is that the clever input methods either put a cognitive burden on the user in terms of choice (pick from a list), or proofing (find the places where the automagic got it wrong and fix it). The workflow for how to input words that the prediction goes wrong is often horribly big and complex, involves state, and is very hard to visualize for the user. This disambiguation is a necessary step, as anything but a direct input method such as qwerty requires that the computer divines you intent, and it will not always be correct.

    Note that I am not discussing multi-level, direct choice input here (press once for a, twice for b, thrice for c…) as these are comparable to qwerty with a penalty for extra key presses. These are really only relevant if you lack the space for keys that are big enough to be useful. If you find yourself in that situation, it turns out that most people will prefer the slower, but easier to understand multi-level direct input method over the clever ones such as T9, even if the clever one is the default.

    I would love to see somebody crack it. It’s theoretically possible, but there are many, many challenges.

    PS: Sorry to bore you all. I know nobody asked. It’s just been so bloody long since this knowledge was even remotely relevant for anything for me, so I’m practically bursting at the seams. I’ll stop now, promise.

         
  • Posted: 26 October 2010 05:20 PM #13

    dduck - 26 October 2010 07:55 PM

    I should rephrase my statement: There are plenty of clever ways to do text input, but few of them can beat dumb qwerty….

    I’ll admit that I’m surprised that Qwerty survived the iPad. Qwerty was originally designed to slow down typing so that we wouldn’t jam our typewriters. When computers first became big in the early 80’s there was a move to replace Qwerty which died a quiet death. Now that keyboards on phones and iPads are virtual, and now that we often use thumbs or peck at our keyboards, I would have thought that alternative keyboards would abound. But I guess it makes sense to keep our physical keyboards consistant with our virtual keyboards.

         
  • Posted: 27 October 2010 12:23 AM #14

    I’m reading great reviews on the MacBook Air.  Mine is arriving tomorrow morning.  I custom-configured it with the 2.13 chip and 4GB of Ram w/256GB SSD.  One analyst predicts Apple will sell 700K this quarter.  There will be some cannibalization with MacBook Pros, but Dull and HP will feel most of the brunt.  :-D

         
  • Posted: 27 October 2010 12:29 AM #15

    My sense is that Dragon Dictation (and apps of similar ilk) are likely to solve the text input requirement for a large part of the computer-user population. This will add impetus to the iPad being the preferred solution for those in mobile mode.

    [ Edited: 27 October 2010 12:35 AM by Hannibal ]