We've been waiting for an ultralight Mac laptop, Should we be happy with what we got? Will it capture people's hearts and minds? It only came out a few days ago, and already people are alternatively praising and dismissing it. Some people say that its lack of built-in ethernet and no built-in optical drive are killer problems. And the little door that flips open to expose the USB port isn't enough for some people, whose multiple USB dongles don't quite fit. Someone somewhere commented that the machine felt cheap and very plastic, but let me tell you, I find it anything *but* cheap and plastic. Yes, it is true that my first impression just looking at it on a table down at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco (http://
I only used the keyboard briefly, and with only a short time to look over the machine I didn't pay much attention to it. But I did try the multitouch keypad and found it... interesting. I am not a big fan of touch pads, but I use them without much trouble. I prefer a mouse or even a... oh, what is that thing called, the little pencil eraser embedded in the middle of the keyboard, invented (if I recall correctly) by IBM long ago. There doesn't seem to be a standard name for that thing: I have seen "nubbin," "eraser," "pointer," "touch point," even "joystick" (!) to describe it. I rather like those for business use but not much else. However, sometimes you will see it zip off towards one corner of the screen at hyperspeed for no obvious reason, and all you can do is wait for it to calm down and give you back control. I suppose, overall, a touch pad is the best choice, and it certainly gives Apple the ability to offer multitouch. The Air's touchpad is quite large, and I experimented with pinching and expanding in Safari, which decreased and increased the font size. Okay, I can see that being useful, I suppose. One thing that did feel strange is the very narrow button. Apple is maintaining the single button, of course, and I do not see them changing it, but I wish it was just a bit thicker.
The power connector is interesting, as is the drop down wedge for plugging wires in. Will its single USB port be a problem? No Firewire, no built-in ethernet. No built-in CD/
I really like the SSD option. Even though it is much more expensive than a hard drive, it offers flexibility and opens new possibilities for (rich) people. Random reads are likely faster and problems with head crashes and mechanical failures should be essentially eliminated. It isn't worth the money to me at the moment, but prices will continue to drop and some day solid state devices will be ubiquitous. I don't see hard drives going away any time soon, but they may become more common in arrays or desktops, while laptops might favor SSDs.
If you need to connect several USB devices, you can certainly use a USB hub, but that can become inconvenient after a while. Do you need a MacBook Air or would a MacBook or even MacBook Pro be better for you? While some people are questioning whether the MacBook Air is going to be another Cube, that's an invalid comparison to me. They're comparing "apples and oranges." The MacBook Air is for people who have access to wireless networks, who can copy media to their local drive and don't need to be constantly using DVDs or CDs, who need to travel quite a bit or don't have space to keep a large machine. This is simply one more machine in Apple's lineup giving us a wider choice based on our needs. And remember, this is first generation.
New iPhone and iPod Touch
I was expecting a bigger upgrade to the iPhone, but a 16GB version is nice, and the 32GB Touch finally sounds useful. I would like that much space in mine, but I will make do with 8GB for now. What I really do want, though, is a faster data connection on the cellular network. I find that speeds run between barely tolerable and glacially slow, tending more towards the latter than the former, unfortunately. The curious thing is, I do not see a clear correlation between signal strength and data speed. Sometimes I will have one or two bars and the speed at which I open a page feels okay, and at other times I have five bars but surfing feels like crawling over broken glass, no matter what website I visit. How can that be? I wonder whether it is AT&T's interconnect to the Internet that is the problem. I wouldn't have thought so, but perhaps the time of day and other network traffic is a greater factor. We will have to wait a while for 3G, it seems, but at least AT&T plans on expanding its 3G network into another 80 cities and introducing High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA), claiming better speeds than today's 600-1,400 Kbps down and 500-800 Kbps up speeds. But kilobits per second is pretty slow, nothing like the 300Mbps their LTE 4G network might do and WiMax's even higher throughput.
The iPhone software seems to be getting better and better, though, so I just updated to 1.
Microsoft makes a bid for Yahoo
The rumors were circulating for a while that Microsoft wanted to buy Yahoo. I don't really understand it myself, but I suppose Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo's eyeballs and talent. You could even say that I'm a yahoo "eyeball" because I have a couple of e-mail accounts there and I use a Yahoo account for instant messaging. However, I rarely use their mail, almost never visit the Yahoo main page, never use Yahoo for searchng, and use Trillian (PC) and Adium (Mac) for my IM clients (Microsoft won't be getting much out of me). Yahoo hasn't been able to beat Google's search engine, and the speculation is that Yahoo may be forced to use Google's search to sell advertising. Well, it might increase Yahoo's income, but if Yahoo gives up on its own search engine I dread to think about how many Yahoo employees will be fired. Yet if Microsoft buys Yahoo, I expect that Microsoft would also get rid of more than just a few people. Either way, the human tragedy in the pursuit of profit can be terribly painful. I do not mean to imply that such changes are not necessary. "The life of man," said Thomas Hobbs in his 1861 book Leviathan, is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short" but we build communities and form societies to help overcome that essential nature of the world. Businesses and corporations, despite the painful times they and their employees sometimes go through, are key to improving our lives, and I hope that Yahoo can make it through this difficult period and again become an innovative force. There was some speculation that Apple might be interested in making a friendly bid, but although possible, I doubt it. Apple is better friends with Google (despite Google's own interest in making a phone platform) and has made no real moves into being a portal or advertising company. Apple produces its own products. It has little interest in assisting other people to sell theirs. As of today, Yahoo wants a lot more than US$31 per share, so this battle might go on a while.
Apple print advertising
I came across an amazing site recently which has archived some of Apple's early print advertising:
They have ads for Apple II and IIc and III machines as well as the Mac, and many clearly show the DNA of today's Apple advertising, from disembodied hands to exceptionally clever turns of phrase. They even have an ad for the Apple Hard Disk 20! Twenty-five times bigger than a floppy! Three times faster! Its problem was that it attached to the external floppy drive port--intrinsically slow. Still, I remember when I installed one at my part-time job in college, and it was such a wonderful change. I used PageMaker 1.