Steve Jobs announced Apple’s entry into the ultra-mobile laptop market, the Macbook Air during his keynote at the Macworld Expo today.
It’s an amazing machine that I got to play with this afternoon (photos below) so I’ll get the fanboy stuff out of the way. Air is an apt name, because its 3 pounds (1.36kg) and thinner than my iPhone in its (somewhat bulky) case. The tech specs are solid, but like any good Apple product it’s the form factor that makes the difference. Full keyboard, 13.4″ screen and a tactile trackpad brings iPhone style touch functionality to a laptop.
Now here’s the downside. The price. $1799.
We’ve covered the move towards cloud computing recently with the gPC; the same company now offers a ultra-mobile laptop for $299. Asus offers the eeePC, another ultra-mobile laptop that runs linux and is focused on the cloud for between $299-$499. The move away from computers that rely on desktop apps to the cloud (internet apps) is on. The Macbook Air fits the criteria with its lack of optical drive, relatively small storage options and emphasis on wireless/ WiFi internet. But here’s the thing: it’s too much money. Sure, it’s superb engineering and a full powered machine, but $1799 US and probably a lot more by the time its offered internationally is beyond what many will pay for an ultra-mobile.
The Macbook Air will also likely cannibalize Macbook sales, after all for not much more you can own an amazing machine, but perhaps that’s the whole point. Perhaps the Macbook Air is Apple’s outreach to the premium end of the Ultra-mobile market and longer term a replacement for the Macbook? Either way Apple has not launched a mass market computer, but they probably know that already, oh, and I still want one.
Update: international pricing is (as expected) inflated. Air in Australia is $2,499 AUD ($2,219) for the base model, and a staggering $4,338 AUD ($3881) for the model with the solid state drive. To put this is perspective I paid approx $3,600 AUD for the top of the range Macbook Pro less than 12 months ago.