Apple's New MacBook Has iPad Envy. That's Good

The pattern is becoming clear now. Apple knows better than to merge iOS and OS X, but there are other options for the family of products. First we saw interoperability with Yosemite and iOS. Now we're seeing similarity in connectivity options. It's back to the future. Meanwhile, some fret. Needlessly.

Image credit: Apple

The new MacBook from Apple is thin, beautiful and colorful. It's also not an excessively powerful notebook computer, given its 8 GB of RAM and the Intel Core M running at 1.1 GHz. But no matter. This new Macbook is designed for people who need a highly portable OS X notebook but don't need the ease of connectivity afforded by many different kinds of discrete ports.

After all, iPad users have gotten along very nicely with just a Lightning port and an audio jack. Why shouldn't the same be true of the new MacBook?

And that's the crucial question for buyers who may already be enjoying good use from the iPad.

OS X Forever, Forever Changing

Right now, there's a lot of fretting about the USB-C connector. Some would like to couch it as Apple's "war" on ports. But if iPad owners can survive nicely with a mostly wireless life, why can't OS X users? That is, certain kinds of OS X users with specific requirements. It's all about what you need, and if your workflow and computing life require multiple ports, then the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are clear alternatives.

If Apple had cancelled the MacBook Air line in preference to the new MacBook, perhaps calling it the MacBook Air 2 (where have we seen that before?), then there would have been howling and gnashing of teeth. But Apple wisely kept the other MacBook lines intact and even improved them on March 9. "Apple Updates MacBook Pro and MacBook Air - Faster Processors, Better Battery Life"

The new MacBook is a bold experiment. If customers flock to it, we can expect to see the other notebook lines change, merge, or disappear. Apple is giving us a foretaste of the future and allowing us to adapt (maybe with a pouch full of adapter cables). Apple will watch the sales numbers carefully.

Neither am I worried about the processing power or limited 8 GB RAM. (16 GB of RAM is nominal now for a primary Mac.) In the past, I carried a 4.5 pound MacBook Pro and a charger around, in a backpack, at WWDC and the old Macworlds for the better part of a week, and I would have killed for a 2 pound MacBook that would let me do my essential work.

Where is the gold and space gray coming from? And the new technology keyboard? The answer is that competitors have just about fully copied the MacBook Air aluminum design, including the thin form factor, trackpad and display. So it was time for Apple to set the bar while changing the notebook rules. Apple must continually set itself apart because that's what Apple does.

In the process of moving relentlessly forward, Apple always puts a strain on some customers who, in turn, grouse. (Tech writers are worse.)  In time, however, we find that we end up adapting as we move forward in time. No one is forcing us to buy a MacBook until it seems to fully meet our needs.

Neither do I think that customers will be fooled. Apple provides a nice comparison chart to help customers make an informed decision. As always, there will be people whose lifestyle and needs fully embrace a MacBook, and they'll be properly celebrated in Apple videos.

Do I want one? My MacBook Air (with 4 GB of RAM) is getting old, and this new MacBook could certainly fulfill its mission in my household as a dedicated writing tool. I think a lot of other people will see it in a similar way. So my advice is to ignore the fretful nerds and buy the Apple notebook, from a very rich product line, that you need, when you need it.

The march of time will take care of itself.