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The Cruel Irony Of The MacBook Air

I've been waiting for a powerful notebook computer the size of an actual notebook for a very long time. And here Apple comes along with the MacBook Air and I'm not going to get one. Oh what cruel irony.
I've been waiting for a powerful notebook computer the size of an actual notebook for a very long time. And here Apple comes along with the MacBook Air and I'm not going to get one. Oh what cruel irony.I've used, tested, and carried a wide variety of PC and Mac laptops since I was handed a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 at my first reporting job. My closet holds my very own NEC Ultralite, the first real notebook-sized laptop, complete with a 2MB (yes, megabyte) silicon hard drive that deleted all its data whenever the battery ran down. Nevertheless, I loved that machine because it was ridiculously easy to carry and did almost everything I really needed it to do at the time. And it even earned me a credit in the wonderful movie Triumph of the Nerds because I lent it to the producers to dress up the set.

And even though I haven't actually got my hands on a MacBook Air yet (my office is a mere stone's throw from MacWorld, but I haven't made it over there this year), it's pretty clear that this is the best notebook-sized notebook computer ever created. Heck, I don't even care that it doesn't have an Ethernet port. (OK, I do care, but not enough stop lusting after the darn thing.)

But... There's always a but. In this case there are anywhere from 1800 to 3100 buts. That's because an Air will set you back $1800 for the basic model and $3100 for the version with the really, really cool 64GB solid-state hard drive (shades of my old Ultralite).

At those prices, the Air is to computers what a Rolex is to watches: a terrific example of the genre whose real purpose is to be a status symbol. A Rolex doesn't tell time any better than a $30 Timex, but displaying one on your wrist makes a statement about your resources and what you think it's important to spend them on.

Whipping out your MacBook Air at the local Starbucks is the geek equivalent (though far cheaper and with more functional advantages). It's no doubt a great machine and its terrific form factor is clearly trumps a Rolex's rock-solid construction and supreme water-tightness as differentiators. But as a computer the Air is simply not as useful as a much-cheaper regular MacBook, and in many ways not as powerful as a generic $600 PC laptop.

So much as I'd love to have an Air, like many folks at cash-strapped small and midsize businesses I'm just not in a position to drop that kind of cash on a status symbol, no matter how elegantly designed.

Of course, I've heard that notebook computers make great gifts!