After MacWorld: Joining Some of the Dots
There were other events surrounding MacWorld 2008 last month, and I need to join some of the dots. In coming weeks and months, I guess we can anticipate negative comments on the MacBookAir (or MBA) although, as with the iPhone, most of those leading the charge have not seen, let alone handled the device: I have.
Many pre-condemned the iPhone keyboard, but in San Francisco there were iPhones everywhere, and not just because of MacWorld. I watched several people texting and was astounded at the speeds. With current mobile phone keyboards (and the speeds people reach with those) this is a learned skill. I had tried the iPod touch keyboard and chipped away with a few errors, but this is a question of absorbing a new skill (like riding a bike or swimming).
One thing that did annoy me was the update to the iPod touch, version 1. Only those with accounts on the iTunes Music Store can download this. I know many people who bought the touch with the original specifications, so the new appications would be a bonus for them. I had several discussions about this at MacWorld and in those talks, and on Apple's web pages, it is clear that the update just will not be available unless we have iTunes store accounts: a glaring error.
I will be honest, I am just about to pick up version 2 of the iPod touch in Bangkok -- I had delayed earlier purchase because of the lack of email.
When Apple opens up the software developer kit (SDK) this month for outside developers to create sofware for the iPhone, that also means software for the iPod touch. Will this new output be restricted to those with access to the iTunes shop? There is already a warning, and it comes from Apple's own email to iPhone owners, "To set up your iPhone, you'll need an account with Apple's iTunes Store." Something there has to change.
The real beauty of the MacBookAir lies not in its slim shape, nor its light weight, but with some of the technology that was developed for it, and may soon find its way into other computers. As dangerous as it is to speculate about Apple, they are unlikely to create technology that is to have a short product run.
The first new development was the smaller sized Intel chips. Currently at 1.6 and 1.8GHz, we may look forward to faster processor speeds and more computers, including non-Macs, sooner or later.
The other new trick was the ability to install software from a remote computer: either Mac or PC. Those who bemoan the lack of Ethernet or other ports are missing the point. The implications here are far wider than just a trimmed down notebook computer. Being able to install an operating system from another computer or even from the Internet, will give considerable flexibility.
OS X already gives the ability to access and control another Mac's desktop via a remote connection, be it wifi or Ethernet. The new features in the MacBookAir increase this. It is expected that one aspect of the imminent upgrade to 10.5.2, will allow Time Machine backup to a remote disk connected to the USB port of an Airport Extreme base station (or to networked disks).
Currently the backup is automatic once one has plugged in the disk to the computer. The new system will not even need the disk to be connected directly: come home, turn on, back up. This will be useful in a home or small office environment where several computers may be backed up to the same disk.
That option of a 64G solid state drive for the MBA, by the way, costs an extra $1300 (about 40,000 baht) so not many people are expected to go this route at current prices. Along with the remote disk this is a typical example of Apple going with technology early (Dell have one too). The first computer with an LED screen was an example of this several years back. Although some did buy this at its initial $20,000+ price tag, it came down to about $2000 a couple of years later.
Although users are not expected to be changing their own batteries with the MBA, particularly mid-flight, the actual battery-change itself is fairly easy and needs a Philipps #00 screwdriver plus a litle care. It is not known at this stage if it will void the warranty.
The Keynote presentation was enlivened when Steve Jobs brought out a manila document envelope from the podium and produced the MBA from that: the envelope had looked almost empty. A couple in the US saw an opportunity and by the end of the week had produced a MBA sleeve that looked identical to the envelope, but is made of durable upholstery-grade vinyl and is cushioned inside. Right now, they are back-ordered it is so popular.
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