Will I be buying a MacBook Air? No. Is it style over substance? Yes. Will it be a flop? Almost certainly. Will Apple release an improved version in 6-8 months time? You betcha
It's been a week since Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air and thankfully the hype has died down. Now the drool oozing from the mouths of slack-jawed fanboys has dried, there's a window of opportunity for rational thinking. Here are my top seven reasons why I believe the MacBook Air will be a massive flop.
1. It's too expensive
The basic MacBook Air comes in at £1,199. That's way too much given the specification. Let's put things in perspective: a Dell XPS M1330 (once the "thinnest laptop in the world") is cheaper, even with a superior specification. Okay, it's 500g heavier and a tiny bit fatter, but it has a faster CPU, double the hard drive space, and a graphics card and operating system that will run most games.
2. It's too big
It's logical that people should pay more for a thinner, lighter laptop, but the MacBook's dimensions still disappoint me. It has a 13.3-inch screen and weighs 1.3kg, which is too big and heavy to 'qualify' (under our admittedly vague system) as an ultraportable. The current Sony Vaio TZ series weighs 1.24kg with an optical drive and the Toshiba Portege R500 is nearly a third lighter at just 800g. Even the four-year-old Sony X505 was thinner. And lighter. Apple really can't claim to have re-invented the wheel on this issue, because it's about four years too late.
3. Not enough connectivity
Apple decided, in its infinite wisdom, to equip the Air with a single USB port when even handheld UMPCs have two more. Then it decided to stick this port directly next to a Mini-DVI port, which to most people only becomes usable once you connect a DVI/S-Video adaptor. Yes, you can carry a USB hub everywhere you go. Or the body of a dismembered antelope. But neither is very practical.
Despite Apple pushing FireWire ports for years, there isn't one on the Air. That has several serious repercussions: anyone with a DV camcorder is going to find it difficult to transfer footage to the MacBook Air, iMovie will become virtually redundant and Windows Movie Maker will rule the Earth. Shudder.
As if the USB/FireWire situation wasn't silly enough, Apple decided it wouldn't bother including an Ethernet port. If you want to communicate with other PCs, you're going to have to use yet another adaptor or settle for wireless. Nothing wrong with that, you might think, but there's plenty: ask any journalist whether Wi-Fi is anywhere near as reliable as wired Ethernet, particularly in a busy environment where everyone's trying to use the same hotspot, and thousands of other devices are yapping on the same 2.4GHz frequency, and the answer will be the same: "give me wires, or give me death!" Intel chipsets are fully capable of supporting wired Ethernet and adding a physical port to the Air would have added about 0.000003g to the overall weight. Yes, you can buy an adaptor, but that just adds cost. Apple got it wrong here. No question.
4. Non-user-replaceable battery
The MacBook Air's battery is replaceable, but not by you. Touch it and you'll void your warranty. Most laptop makers actively encourage users to buy spare batteries -- not only is it convenient for the user, but it also generates revenue for the company. You get the option of a spare wheel when your car gets a flat, so why can't you have the same option in your laptop?
5. No mobile broadband
The best ultraportable laptops in the world have integrated mobile broadband. The MacBook Air does not. Anyone that's used HSDPA to jump online anywhere they damn well please (well, outside of backwards redneck USA) will tell you it's a great feeling. But this is a feeling you will not get with the MacBook Air, designed by the company that doesn't think 3G is all that.
6. It might well shock you
Not long ago we broke a story on Dell laptops shocking their users with electricity due to an ungrounded power supply and metallic chassis. Many users responded by saying their MacBook Pros and other laptops did the same thing. Since the MacBook Air is made almost entirely of aluminium and will likely use a similar ungrounded power supply -- to make it even thinner, dahling -- one might think electric shocks are just a fingertip away.
7. Rubbish storage
The Air ships with an 80GB hard drive. What, are we living in the 1960s? Toshiba managed to get a 160GB drive in its Portege R500, and Sony crammed a 250GB drive in its latest TZ. And both those laptops can ship with a built-in DVD rewriter! With the Air, you have to buy a separate USB Superdrive -- adding even more cost -- or borrow another PC's optical drive over Wi-Fi, assuming that PC has a Wi-Fi adaptor and the owner will let your stupid, Mac-using backside near his gear.
Will I be buying a MacBook Air? No. Is it style over substance? Yes. Will it be a flop? Almost certainly. Will Apple release an improved version in 6-8 months time because they got this one wrong -- as they did with Apple TV? You betcha. -Rory Reid