Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs triumphantly held up a manilla interoffice mail envelope to a round of applause at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. It was a silly gimmick, but it got the point across. A year after introducing the Macworld crowd to the iPhone, the company was about to add another cornerstone product to its repertoire.
Ten years and seven generations later, the MacBook Air’s design hasn’t changed all that much — a rarity for an aesthetically obsessed company like Apple. Sure, there have been little tweaks over the years, like the second generation Magsafe connector and a change to the ports, but otherwise, the wedge-shaped, “world’s thinnest notebook” has remained remarkably consistent.
That first Air hit the market in February 2008, weighing a mere three pounds (Apple would later shave off a few ounces, but the weight would also stay more or less the same), coming in at two pounds less than a MacBook with the same screen size.
A year after effectively killing the smartphone keyboard, the Air maintained a full-size QWERTY. Jobs promised “no compromises,” but some were certainly made in the name of keeping the system thin and light.
Jobs talked down the importance of the optical drive, another in a long like of Apple-spurred obsolescence — in this case, the company was right on target there. Apple’s design team also hid some ports in a flip-down hatch, ultimately doing away with that bit in 2010. Even so, the laptop was a beautiful bit of engineering. Like the iPhone and iPod before it, this was peak Apple.
In recent years, the laptop has largely stagnated — particularly once the company released the redesigned 13-inch MacBook. Air fans have mostly given up hope that the company will offer a major refresh to the line, as Apple has shifted its laptop strategy.
Even though the product is no longer a main focus for the company, the Air’s had remarkable staying power. The laptop seems destined to fade away, rather than burn out — but even so, in the cut throat world of consumer electronics, a decade’s a pretty good run.