Since the Apple Event announcing the new MacBook Airs, I’ve been using a loaner unit of the 11.6-inch Air. I won’t bore you with yet another standard review of the Air; instead, I’ll share some thoughts from the historical perspective of a longtime Apple laptop owner.
Steve Jobs called the new Airs as the future of laptops. No doubt, but these seeds were planted many years ago by previous laptops and mobile devices.
I’ve owned or used many Apple laptops over the years, including the PowerBook 100, PowerBook 180, PowerBook Duo, Wallstreet, Lombard, PowerBook G4 12-inch and various MacBook Pros1. I was old enough to remember when the PowerBooks were first released; I remember being so excited about the possibilities of taking my digital life away from the house at the time. Of course, this was also the time when Apple released the Newton, but that’s a part of life my that’s already well documented.
Though the PowerBook 100 was the second portable Mac released, I consider it the first true portable computer from Apple — 16 pounds for the Mac Portable meant you had to be a giant to fit that on your lap! I see the Air as being the successor of a number of Mac laptops, including the PowerBook 100, PowerBook Duo and the 12-inch PowerBook G42.
There are many similarities between the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air and the PowerBook 100, including the lack of an optical drive or floppy drive and a minimum of I/O ports. Both devices are slimmer and lighter than their more powerful PowerBook or MacBook siblings. Of course, the similarities end when considering nineteen years separate the Air from the 100. Much progress has been made in CPU design, battery life, display technology, miniaturization, and industrial design, making the Air so much more powerful and capable over its ancestor.
That said, computers are tools of their time. Obviously, I no longer use the PowerBook 100 (and it has a busted hard drive, so it won’t even boot). I wonder if I’ll be using the Air in another nineteen years. The answer seems at first obvious, of course not! Then again, we are still using the 12-inch PowerBook G4 after nearly eight years, though admittedly more as a portable DVD player than anything else. Up until last year, my eMate 300 was by my bedside acting as an alarm clock. Will the Air be the living room or bathroom computer in seven years? Maybe only if it’s plugged in, as I doubt Apple will be selling replacement batteries for them seven years after being discontinued.
Though the 13-inch MacBook Air is light, many longtime Mac owners have been clamoring for physically smaller laptop from Apple. The 13-inch Air after all has the same footprint as the 13-inch MacBook. The 11-inch Air, on the other hand, is only a little taller than an iPad! Because of this, the smaller Air can fit into places where only the iPad dares to tread, such as my Scottevest jacket or an airline seat back pocket.
I’ve enjoyed using the Air in these first few weeks. It’s fast enough for everything but hardcore video and photo processing, which means it’s fast enough for the majority of people. Until I have to return the device back to Apple next month, I’ll use it for travel, especially during our final Autumn Gem tour of 2010. In fact, Rae took it to Oregon for three screenings. I’m on a plane for New York tonight, which means I’m lugging around the 15-inch MacBook Pro. I’m writing this post from the airport terminal, since I know that I won’t be able to do any work in a cramped airline seat with the 15-inch!
These initial weeks have not been without some difficulties. I’ve experienced two kernel panics, one of which had the computer running (hot) with the lid closed. I didn’t realize that it was still on until I took it out to show to someone. I haven’t installed that much third-party software, and I have not looked in the logs to see what caused the error. I submitted a bug report to Apple in the hopes they can track down and resolve the problem3.
So there you go, thoughts on the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air from a longtime Apple laptop owner. Here are some more photos comparing the MacBook Air with the PowerBook 100 and the 12-inch PowerBook G4. Enjoy!
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1 In the interests of disclosure, I do own some shares from my favorite fruit company. Sadly, had I bought shares instead of laptops, I’d be sitting on a much larger amount of money today!
2 I never really used the PowerBook 2400c, but that laptop can also be considered an ancestor to the new Air.
3 I wish the same could be said of my Aperture library, which may be hosed after updating Aperture to 3.1. I’ll try rebuilding the library when I return home after my next trip..