The afternoon the MacBook Air was announced, I was thinking of raiding the computer piggybank and dropping $1,800 on one of these babies.
Announced at MacWorld, the annual Apple pilgrimage where Steve Jobs for years has been known to pause at the end for "one more thing" at the end of his keynote address, Jobs pulled out this new laptop from a normal inter-office manila envelope.
The Air one of the smallest full-featured notebook computers out there is another fabulous feat of Apple engineering, and I confess I was smitten at first observation. I love small laptops, and my small 12-inch G4 Powerbook remains my favorite laptop of all.
At 13.3 inches and just 3 pounds, I could easily fall in love with the Air's small form factor, its back-lit keyboard and very thin frame. For a traveler like me, I think it is just the thing. When I used to be a global traveler for a Fortune 500 company, I would lug (and I do mean lug) a 15-inch Dell around and look enviously at the guys with the skinny executive laptops.
After I watched the online demo at Apple.com, I was seriously smitten with the Air, enough that I was mentally passing down my old laptops to my kids and making the business case to my wife in my head why another Apple needed to join the family a couple weeks AFTER Christmas.
Sure, it didn't have an optical drive, but neither does the Dell I use at work, another slim executive laptop, and frankly, I have used the external drive a total of twice in six months. Apple has solved this shortcoming, if you call it that, by offering both an external drive and some software called Remote Disk that one installs on a nearby computer that shares that computer's drive wirelessly to the Air. So that really wasn't a downside to me.
Then I guess my other side of my brain kicked in.
No Ethernet jack? I know Apple designed this to be a totally wireless laptop, but I can think of a couple hotels recently that did not yet share Apple's vision. That means me carrying a USB Ethernet dongle, which is another thing for me to lose.
No Firewire port? Come on, Steve, you guys INVENTED FireWire. Putting one lowly USB jack in this thing is a mistake. It should have been one of each, at the bare minimum.
The killer for me is the lack of a user-replaceable battery. I know, before the Apple faithful gang up and write en masse, it has now been disclosed that one can take a screwdriver and remove the bottom of the computer and then unscrew the battery and replace it, but I do not consider taking apart the computer to be user-replaceable.
Apple's official position is users with bad batteries should take their computers to their "local" Apple store for service, which is lovely if you live near one, which, alas, most of the world does not.
A user-replaceable battery is just that. You move a lever and the battery plops out and you slide in a new one when your movie is half-way over and you're still over the Pacific Ocean with eight hours to go.I will wait for Air, Version 2 very anxiously with cash in hand.
James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail is [email protected].