Yesterday I wrote about how the new MacBook Air isn't for pros. Today I want to take a look at some of the new MBA's strengths and make a case for it being the ultimate couch surfboard.
The target audience for the Air is evident by the lack of the word "pro" on the end its name -- Apple has a whole line of notebooks specifically for professional users. It was probably wishful thinking on my part that I'd be able to use the new Air as my full time machine, which would be great because I happen to be traveling more than normal lately.
Although it's not going to be any pro's full-time machine, the new Air will fit a couple of demographics quite nicely. Users that can tolerate the compromises inherent in a true subnotebook (limited CPU, GPU, memory and screen real estate) will absolutely love the new MacBook Air.
Casual to moderate users who need to browse the web, read email, and generally "stay connected" will love this machine. Users that travel a lot on airplanes and who work in cramped quarters will also love it. As will anyone who needs a second Mac for using around the house, light travel and for weekends.
And then there's the blogger. Someone (like me) that does all of the above and is generally writing and editing more than five days per week will also love the Air as a second machine. When I have the luxury of a desk, external keyboard and mouse and my 27-inch monitor, I'm going to use them. But when I need to be unthethered from my desk, the Air is the perfect complement to my MacBook Pro. (I was relieved that the new Air's NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU can drive the new 27-inch Apple Cinema Display.)
I was originally hoping that the iPad would be the perfect complement to my MacBook Pro, but its lack of a physical keyboard is a liability for someone that has to type a lot. Sure, you can attach a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard dock, but that's a kludge. And I start missing my trackpad after a few paragraphs. Plus iOS apps have their own share of compromises and most times I'd rather use desktop-class apps
I agree with Steve Jobs' assertion yesterday that a touchscreen notebook isn't really practical. He said that Apple's been testing touchscreen notebooks for years -- and while it gives a great demo -- it's horrible ergonomically for long-term use. For some tasks there's just no replacing a hardware keyboard and trackpad.
The 11.6-inch MBA is like an Apple netbook -- at the price of a full-size notebook. Price-sensitive users need not even consider the new MacBook Air, it will lose most price/performance comparisons to cheaper notebooks every time. Heck at $999 and $1199 the entry-level MacBook and MacBook Pros offer a lot more bang for your buck. But if size and portability are a priority (and price isn't) the MacBook Air will be a really nice fit.
(As for the iPad -- mine's going to my wife.)
What's your take on the new MacBook Air? Perfect complementary Mac or overpriced/underpowered plaything?
Update: Marco Arment (developer of Instapaper) summarized it well by comparing the MacBook Air to a 2-seat car, "It’s a great computer, but it’s not for everyone." His analysis, written from the perspective of a previous Air user, is spot on and a great read.