New 12-inch MacBook Air shows Apple still ballsy

Let’s talk about the new, 12-inch MacBook Air. Typically, I don’t comment on speculation but 9to5mac seems confident about their information. Anyway, this isn’t about the MacBook Air per se and more on how Apple is still willing to take big risks — which is fantastic — and about their view on computing.

Here’s the quick rundown on those MacBook Air rumors:

  • 12-inch display in an extremely compact design
  • One USB Type-C port, one headphone port and…that’s it for ports
  • Smaller than standard keyboard
  • Trackpad has no mechanical key

The Type-C port, in addition to its typical USB functionality, is also capable of powering the laptop and driving displays. The thinking is that one port will be used for all those things and via hub when needed.

This is a risky design. The Type-C port will break easy compatibility with accessories, similar to the lightning port for iPhone and iPad, and will surely piss some people off. The smaller keyboard may annoy Apple lifers. Removing the mechanical key on the trackpad means the likelihood that a touch is misinterpreted as a tap is higher.

So why do it?

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This goes back to Apple’s view on what the MacBook Air is for. The MacBook Air is meant to be the most mobile productivity device ever, and for people who value portability above power and still want to get work done. The new MacBook Air doubles down on that approach.

The unconventional changes might annoy some, but on the whole, the lighter form factor will make the MacBook Air more appealing to its target market.

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I love it. The new Air breaks industry convention — the very same that Apple set — yet comes closer to Apple’s vision for portable computing.

It’s also ballsy because, more than ever, the MacBook Air will directly compete with the iPad. Its size and weight is becoming more tablet-like. What would people buy: a portable consumption only device, or a portable consumption and productivity device that’s only marginally bigger and heavier?

Apple deserves applause for ignoring potential cannibalization and putting both on the market for customers to choose.

What would be even better is if Apple took one step further and made a keyboard accessory for the iPad that doubles as a cover. That would be the true test of whether laptops and tablets have finally converged.

5 thoughts on “New 12-inch MacBook Air shows Apple still ballsy

  1. I am a bit on the fence about this rumour.

    On one hand, I have a hard time believing that Apple would do away with their signature magsafe connector, which did help in solving a legitimate problem – that people were tripping over cables and sending attached laptops falling onto the ground. Regressing back to USB seems to run counter to all the advancements they have made (especially when MagSafe 2 actually made it easier to detach the charging cable).

    Also, Apple seems to prize the typing experience very much, which is why even the 11.6″ MBA still comes with a full-sized keyboard (together which what I feel is the very best in laptop trackpads). I won’t want to see them compromise in this area.

    Not to mention – how would this even work with a thunderbolt display?

    That said, I can see how Apple might justify such a move. The transition to haswell now allows for battery life of up to 12 hours of usage. In theory, consumers could charge their laptops at home overnight, then leave home in the morning and have enough juice to see them through a day of usage. If you leave your charger at home, the charging port then kinda becomes redundant.

    In addition, in my past 2 years of owning a MBA, I find I rarely use external storage, relying chiefly on cloud storage to move my files around. And if you need more ports, that’s what USB hubs are for.

    As to your second point, I own both an iPad and a MBA, and I still don’t find that one cannibalises the other. I disagree that the iPad is good only for consumption – I use it for work-related purposes a fair bit. When I am sitting on a couch, a tablet form factor is still better than a laptop (with a keyboard) for consumption, be it listening to music, watching youtube, surfing the web or just light gaming.

    So while the MBA arguably does productivity better, it’s still worse in the consumption area, and I believe that people who want the unique user experience afforded by a tablet (more specifically, the iPad) will still pay for it. So I don’t think that laptops and tablets are destined to converge anytime soon.

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    1. Great comments Ken. Those who have the money and are willing to spend it on gadgets will buy the best device for a given purpose. However, I believe the majority would prefer to save money where they can, thus the opportunity for convergence where one device can be “good enough” for two purposes.

      The laptop is rapidly “good enough” to be extremely portable; almost as portable as a tablet.

      And the tablet is nearly — if not already — good enough to be a person’s primary computing device.

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    1. I agree the SP3 is good enough, but not its price. A mass market device should be below $500, and ideally more like $300. I’d love to see a mid-range Surface with a Core M chip at that price range.

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  2. I think I would much rather have an iPad Pro. Don’t know whether they’re still working on that or not.

    I guess it depends on where your needs are. I already have my Dell Venue 8 Pro eight inch tablet with a magnetic keyboard cover for portable productivity and some forms of video consumption. I have to rely on ONE micro USB slot and a hub though.

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