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The MacBook Air is envelope-thin, incredibly light, and surprisingly sturdy, but it occupies the same desktop footprint of the MacBook. By going with a 13.3-inch widescreen display, it’s clear that Apple wanted to make no compromises in the viewing of iTunes videos (movies, especially).
Can the MacBook Air truly be called an “ultraportable” notebook? Not if weight and size are your primary concerns; there are lighter, less expansive PC notebooks on the market. No, what the Air has going for it is its reedy profile, a profile so thin, one might even call it “2D.” If you had the pleasure of using the Air at Expo ’08, you know that photography doesn’t do the product justice. Its design lines—or lack thereof?—must be experienced first-hand to appreciate. In short, if having the newest, coolest, freakiest notebook is your goal in life, the Air is your ticket. It’s an impressive piece of physical design, and we’ll still be recognizing that a year from now.
But what the Air really gives us is a peek into the future of the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. In these full-featured computers, you’ll definitely see smaller motherboards and processors, and the Air’s trackpad finger gestures. As for the Air’s dependence on wireless connections and iTunes for data downloads, this points to a new direction for all notebook manufacturers. Apple missed an opportunity by not including 3G Internet connectivity in the Air, but other than that omission, the new notebook is decidedly wireless friendly. It’s ready for action in a world where data lives remotely on some networked hard drive or Internet server, though we can’t say we’re ready to join the Air in that universe.
Rest assured, you won’t see stripped-down MacBooks and MacBook Pros anytime in 2008. Those machines serve as primary Macs for users who perform data-heavy work, work that would be stifled by the bandwidth limitations of Wi-Fi and USB. Because the Air doesn’t have a lot of key features that people depend on (FireWire, an optical drive, and built-in Ethernet, to name a few), it’s best suited to be your secondary Mac.
History will judge the MacBook Air as a beautiful, slim-fit notebook with features that anticipate some version (but maybe not the winning version) of computing’s future. But from an “Oh my god, Apple has done it again!” perspective, neither its design nor its features inspire an iPhonian reaction.
Greening The Air
Along with the accolades Apple receives for its products come complaints and pressure from environmental groups for the company to be more environmentally friendly. In his keynote, Steve Jobs made it a point to highlight the efforts Apple made with the MacBook Air to create a greener Mac. The MacBook Air’s case is made of recyclable aluminum, and the display is mercury free and uses arsenic-free glass. The motherboard is free of brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. The MacBook Air’s lack of an optical drive will force people to depend on network transmission of data, weaning users away from those shiny silver discs. And if (or when) you bring your MacBook Air in for a new battery, Apple disposes of the old battery properly.