Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Danged Good Point

Paul Boutin in Slate reviews the new MacBook Air and notes that "in many ways, phones are now more powerful than laptops":

Phone and laptop technology is converging. The iPhone and other smartphones have as much processing power as the desktop workstations of five years ago, and laptops are getting smaller and more portable. It's only natural to expect that the advances seen in laptops would come to phones, and vice versa. So, why has Apple failed to make foolproof, always-on Web access—the iPhone's killer feature—a standard component of its next generation of computers?

It's not like Apple is hesitant about getting its suppliers to engineer new parts—after all, the company coerced Intel to build a special, extra-small version of its Core 2 Duo processor that would fit inside the MacBook Air. It's possible that putting a cell phone inside the Air would mean lots of regulatory hurdles before the device could come to market. But it isn't a new idea. Lenovo, for one, has offered the option for years. And Apple has stuffed AT&T wireless access into 5 million iPhones, all of which are slimmer than the new MacBook. Would it really have been that hard to put a cell card inside the Air?

The new notebook is touted as the first computer designed from the ground up to be used wirelessly; but without 3G cellular or WiMax last-mile access, it's really just the first computer designed from the ground up to be used over Wi-Fi. Which makes it the ultraportable equivalent of the iPod touch.

That said, I doubt these limitations will last terribly long, and I also don't think the MacBook Air is really the ultraportable solution. I bet that in a few years, as the processor speeds at that size catch up, the MacBook Air -- or its innovations, like flash HD and a drop of the optical drive -- will simply replace the MacBook. There will be a different Pro desktop replacement laptop, and maybe some kind of third less expensive, portable device.

What am I saying? Steve Jobs is giving up on reading. Screw Apple.

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