My Turn

The MacBook Air Makes a Statement

Frank Fox - 2008.01.23

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

For a product that many claim to not like because it "falls short" or "is lacking in feature" (e.g., no DVD drive), there are tons of article to read about everyone's opinion. It's like by broadcasting their opinion, they can they say to the world how right they were if the product doesn't sell.

What fools to have the hubris to think that their opinion is that important.

The truth is that the product will succeed or fail based on timing. Did the features meet needs of users today in enough numbers? Apple and all the PC suppliers out there have plenty of laptop models with DVD drives built in. Will they all someday lose the drive in favor of lower weight? Apple is betting that they will - and that the time to start selling this way is now. Apple is the (only) company with both the thinking and capability of delivering this future.

What is the big deal, you may ask. Anyone can leave something out.

How wrong you are. All the PC vendors are competing with each other. They all compare on specifications. What happens if Sony or Dell "forgets" to install a drive - their machine specs appear low compared to the competition. This is especially true is the other guy sells the same thing with a DVD for $5 less. Then you are getting less and paying more for the privilege.

Apple has no competitors (if you want to legitimately run Mac OS X). Apple offers only one ultralight model, and it comes without a built-in DVD. If you don't like it, then buy something else. It really doesn't matter to the Mac user what other PCs are available. There is no other ultralight, OS X compatible computer on the market.

Reason number two: Apple is not Microsoft. Sony and Dell would have a hard time making a wireless boot computer without some major help from Microsoft. If Microsoft is busy or not interested, then Sony and Dell are SOL. Apple can change the OS to match the hardware. They have no third-party reliance to get things done. Sony and Dell pretty much follow where Microsoft leads them. Unfortunately Microsoft is worried about its own profits, not its customer's business model.

So what makes Apple think that the timing is right? Apple has seen the hole in their product lineup. They have the consumer laptop, MacBook, and they have a couple of choices for the professional with the MacBook Pro. They needed an ultralight to appeal to the business and top-end consumer. They want a product that makes a statement about values.

If you ever go visit the office of a sales person or business executive, you will find a laptop and two pieces of paper on their desk. Everything else is filed away, and this gives a clean, uncluttered look. They are important, and they are not buried under the weight of a ton of paper like the rest of us.

So how can you make this same statement for the person outside of the office? The phase, "less is more" covers the design goal. You want a laptop that is thin as a knife, light as a feather, free of cords, quiet as death, and with the fewest features. Fast as lightning would also be great, and for a little extra you can get the solid state drive upgrade.

The MacBook Air is not for the average consumer. I still want my DVD, and I am a cheapskate too. I'll go and buy the white MacBook and be happy. Two extra pounds is not that important. Besides, my kids will be using it, and I want something solid they can't break.

But for the image conscious person, the MacBook Air calls to their sense of self importance. They can live without the drive if they must. And Apple is so nice to sell a drive if they really need it. They can throw that into their bag when they travel. These are the people who shrug off the question of what is not included to get across their real statement of "I don't need to pile my desk high with unimportant things."

The truth is that I want to be one of those people, but today I am not. Based on the number of websites and comments, there's a bunch of people out there who wish they were. The feel better complaining to cover up their confusion. To these people I want to say I feel your pain, but just shut up about it already. Move on to comparing graphics cards or something.

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