Is the MacBook Air the new mainstream MacBook?
The MacBook Air has walked an interesting path since 2008, first as a high-end executive plaything, then a more attainable but still specialty interest ultraportable.debuted in October, well after back-to-school shopping.
This year, however, the new Airs have emerged in late July, perfectly timed for students planning their computer purchases. The
First impressions: Apple's new Mac Mini
Mac OS X Lion review: A worthy upgrade for the price
Apple unveils first Thunderbolt display for $999
Apple quietly discontinues white MacBook
Apple updates MacBook Air, Mac Mini
A $999 MacBook still remains; the 11-inch Air's base model costs the same as that older white MacBook. Its 1.6GHz Core i5 processor feels far zippier than last year's Air, but its limited storage (64GB of flash memory) presents a limit to hold-everything-on-your-hard-drive people. On first boot-up, 48GB of drive space was free to use, which limits what you'd permanently keep on your computer. That 64GB of storage can be expanded up to 256GB at the time of purchase, but that drives the price up, too, by several hundred dollars.
Or, does that matter anymore? Cloud storage, which was the dangling promise behind the original concept of the MacBook Air, is more widely adopted now than ever before. Music and photo libraries can be easily stored on remote servers; streaming video services are more widespread.
The MacBook Air isn't a white MacBook, though, and never will be. It's something different--smaller, lighter. And, its $999 starting price will be one that many people will consider upgrading on to add more storage space. That mightof the MacBook Air for many people, as we posited last year.
That, of course, brings up the other elephant in the Apple Store: the iPad.
Apple's tablet, and to many people it's already replacing a laptop. Add a keyboard and it's a functional computer, if limited compared with what an OS X-equipped MacBook with keyboard and trackpad can do. What Apple has now is a spectrum of choices: iPad, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro. The spectrum starts at $499 and ends at more than $2,000. Where do you land? Do you buy an iPad and a desktop iMac, or go with a more powerful MacBook and possibly a desktop docking display?
Perhaps Apple wants customers to make this choice carefully. Maybe there isn't a MacBook for everyone anymore, and maybe that's the point in a post-iPad world.
Apple's current best-selling laptop has been the
What do you think? What would you buy: an iPad, a MacBook Air, or a MacBook Pro?
Our colleague at ZDNet Larry Dignan has a more disappointed take on the MacBook Air's new position in the Apple spectrum. Read his take here.