My Take on Ted’s MacBook Dilemma

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.