The Apple MacBook Air has remained almost unchanged for a year and a half--a testament to the staying power of its design. So, how will Apple respond to the wave of inexpensive, ultra-thin lookalikes hitting the market over the next six months?
The Air was a sensation when it debuted in January of 2008. Not that it sold by the boatloads, but the stunning form factor set off an industrial-design frenzy. Ergo, the Dell Adamo and the raft of "ultra-thin" laptops in the hopper as a result of Intel's push to get its "ULV" (ultra-low-voltage) chips in as many glamorous but affordable designs as possible.
The just-announced ultra-thin Acer Aspire Timeline is the writing on the wall. No, it's not the equivalent of a MacBook Air or Dell Adamo but it's close enough to give prospective buyers even more reason to balk at the $1,800-plus price tags attached to those two gorgeous designs.
And other designs are already out there like the 0.78 inch-thick MSI X340 X-Slim, which is, more or less, a photocopy of the Air. And even Lenovo is tempting fate with the 3.5-pound 13.3-inch IdeaPad U350, which will start at $649 and make the $1,900 ThinkPad X301--and the Air--look very expensive.
So, what does an Acer Aspire Timeline get you for $899? Let's take a quick look:
- Intel Core 2 Duo processor SU9400 (1.40GHz, 10 watts)
- 13.3-inch LED-backlit TFT LCD
- Mobile Intel GS45 Express chipset
- 4GB of DDR3 memory
- 6-cell lithium ion battery
- 500GB SATA hard drive
- 3.5 pounds
- Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Many of those specifications are a stone's throw away from the Air (and Adamo)--or match it.
So, what will Apple's MBA encore be? Thinner? Lighter? Faster? 3G capable? Dare I say, cheaper? Or a new industrial design that will send all the ultra-thin wannabes back to the drawing board? I'm waiting.