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Thoughts on Macworld

It’s finally official, I guess Apple’s reality distortion field is wearing off for me. This was the first Macworld that I slept through since 2004, and no regrets.

The most interesting thing to me was that they got a pretty awesome movie rental service out. Includes all movies, at a pretty good price and reasonable rules for viewing. If there was an iTunes store in Singapore, I’d actually become a subscriber for this (I’m not sure if one can access the US store from here). Rentals are almost as cheap as stores, and you have the added advantage of not having to bother about going to a store to get and return media. The upgraded Apple TV makes a lot of sense, and actually it’ll be a pretty awesome device to have – given that you can access Youtube, Flickr photos, video podcasts as well as traditional iTunes content without needing a computer.

Minor updates to the iPhone. Steve Jobs is undoubtedly the greatest presenter in the world – he got applauded for allowing iPhone users to send SMSes to multiple people at once – a feature thats been around on phones for half a decade now. Enough said.

Which brings me to what was in the air at this Macworld – the Macbook Air. It’s certainly not what many people, including me were asking for (as long ago as last Macworld) – a Pro machine thats portable yet powerful – in essence a replacement of the 12″ Powerbook that I still use.

Thin is good, but Apple compromised way too much on thin. Let me put down my premise here – I understand Apple as a brand commands a premium, and with good reason. However, if I’m paying them US$1799 for a computer, I had better get a decent computer. One that I can, say, make my only computer if necessary and it should do whatever I’d need. Is that asking too much?

Lets start with the lousy disk options. Guess what, the consumer looking at the MacBook Air has a “choice”. Option A, choose the slowest drive in the world (80 GB, 4200 RPM). Firstly, 80 gigs? My three year old Powerbook 12″ has a 60 gig drive (5400 RPM), and I had an option to make it 100 gigs at the time. This is ridiculous, especially as Apple clearly has a 160 gig drive on their iPod Classic as well, which is NOT an option on the MacBook Air – I guess it was a slice too thick. But hey, if we go from 0.76″ to 0.8″ we’ll no longer get a thinner laptop than Sony, will we? Secondly, speed. This drive was advertised as “the drive on millions of iPods”, ergo, fast enough to play music – but you know, I might actually want to run like, real software on it. I dread the thought of anyone trying to load up a large Lightroom (or worse, Aperture) photo library onto this machine. Thank God we have a choice.

Option B is to choose the most expensive drive in the world – the 64 GB solid state drive. This is supposed to be really fast – but only costs a thousand dollars. A thousand dollars that could fetch you a whole new Apple Macbook at student price. Not to mention its even smaller than the actual magnetic storage, and lets not forget that OS X eats up close to 10 gigs of space for a full install. Yay for consumer choice.

Optical drive extra – but as Jobs said, we don’t need to watch movies on DVD (we have movie rentals!), we don’t need to burn CDs (we have iPods!) and we certainly don’t need space for backup (why wouldn’t anyone spend US$300 extra on a glorified router plus hard drive that is the Apple Time Capsule?). And we have the option of sharing a drive wirelessly from another computer to experience the joy of installing Microsoft Office 2008 over wifi, as if the process weren’t already slow enough. Fact is, there are people who live outside Cupertino-land. They’ll actually need a DVD drive, and be forced to pay US$99 (though I would hope other brand-drives which are cheaper would work as well).

No ethernet. Which will be missed when you want to configure your brand new router for the initial wifi config. But well, they do sell an adapter for US$29, and though we’re leaking change, we’ll bite the bullet except…

The MacBook Air has a single USB port. The ONE. Like Neo, in The Matrix (sorry, but I couldn’t resist). Why one? What is one supposed to do if forced to use the Ethernet adapter? Buy a hub, of course! So now we have to have an optical drive, a hub, an ethernet adapter – is it just me or is the Air getting a bit more viscous than it looked? Given that most people like to work with a mouse attached, that means the average person will have to move around with a hub all the time, if they so much as want to be able to work with a USB drive sometimes. Would it have been that bad if the Air was a tenth of an inch thicker but had three USB ports?

And no decent video card option, either. All of this ranting though, is only for someone who wants to buy this thing as a primary or only computer – clearly not Apple’s target market. Apple seems to be targeting this at people who already own a primary machine (maybe even two) and the Macbook Air is just for travel, or to be cool. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

I can pretty much bet that revisions to the Macbook Air line will be way better than what we have now. SSD will get cheaper and bigger, small hard disks will become faster, and who knows they might find a way to put in a real video card in there. And maybe when wireless USB comes along the whole Air thing will make more sense; as it stands currently, the Air is an experimental concept. All the more reason to wait this one out.

One Comment

  1. Benny wrote:

    Funny how so many feel they have to not only have an opinion about the Macbook Air but also have to ‘air’ it (haha).
    People want to distain themselves from the device for the same reason others want it so badly : to profile themselves, to show the world who they are. To acquire status.
    And frankly, I would not be suprised that , like home-phobes often turn out to be gay, a lot of the critics really are Macbook Air-phobes that will indeed ‘out’ themselves when they are ready and have gotten over their inexplicable fear.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 2:47 am | Permalink

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