Improving the MacBook Air

by Tanner Godarzi Jan 21, 2008

I previously railed against the newly announced MacBook Air, and with good reason: too high of a price point and lack of anything that sets it as a pro machine. The MacBook Air is a great concept, but the shipping product in my mind doesn’t line up with a finished one.

The Price!
In most cases, a price reduction either signals a sale or lacking something compared to their more expensive counterparts. Apple did the exact opposite with the MacBook Air; well, they did make it really freaking thin, I’ll give them that. But on the other hand, the specs are horrible for the outrageous price Apple slapped on. For $200 I can sacrifice a thin form factor and gain a beast of a machine, one that would eat the Air for breakfast and demand some puny Vaio for seconds. Even then I can save a couple hundred dollars and get a baseline MacBook with comparable specs.

Obviously this isn’t the Mac for everyone, which is what I think as well. To make it work, the price should be lower than the baseline MacBook or at least the same.

The Specs!
Short of changing the price, what could Apple have done better? A ultra portable has been in demand for a while, and some thought Apple delivered on that with the Air, but before that the PowerBook of old was dominant. Once that line was scrapped and replaced by the MacBook/Pro, the demise of the lower end 12-inch PowerBook was lamented by many road warriors. It was a great machine that took everything great about its bulkier brethren and put it in a small package. Power, storage, processing, it was all there.

Why Apple couldn’t have shrunken down the 15-inch MacBook Pro into a 12-inch form factor sort of seems absurd, but heat output gets to be tricky in laptops. Surely that shouldn’t have been a problem for Apple, as they managed to get a custom made chip from Intel specifically for the MacBook Air. Why couldn’t they have used the newly available Penrynn chips to offer the same power of the pro in a smaller size? For the same price point that it is now, the Air could’ve been the perfect blend of power and portability if it was offered in a 12-inch form factor. It seems to me that the main problems with the MacBook Air are confusion as a Pro machine priced laptop while under spec’d, and its high price for a limited function portable.


  • Great article and spot on.  In addition if the battery is that easy to change how about allowing customers to take it to Apple stores for replacement?  It’s way overpriced for what it is ..or should I say what it is not (

    rich52 had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 1
  • You can take it to the Apple Store and have the battery replaced.  It’s $129, the same price as any other notebook battery at the Apple Store.

    Andrew Harden had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 19
  • finger in the wound, Tanner….

    I refuse to understand the reasonings that kept Apple from getting a lower end macbook pro out that would take the ancestry of my PB G4 that is still beating the crap as being my only computer 24/7…

    mat!-) had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 13
  • This is supposed to be a subcompact laptop. As far as price is concerned, it is right in line with the offerings of Sony. It is currently $300 cheaper then that Sony offering. It offers a greater than 2 inch gain on the display, a full sized keyboard, a faster processor (1.6Ghz base vs. 1.06Ghz), super thin, and better wireless integration. The cons are that it lacks a built-in disc drive and ethernet. You are obviously not the target market for this computer. To be honest, this is right on the money for what it is. What you are describing is a different product that Apple can produce in the future.
    If you recall the old PowerBook 12” were not really anything better than the iBook. Just an aluminum case and a slightly snappier processor and not much else.
    The MacBook Air is a different machine, and not what you are describing. What you are describing is a super MacBook, or a MacBook Pro lite.

    diablojota had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 25
  • “What you are describing is a super MacBook, or a MacBook Pro lite.”

    Which it very well should be for that price point.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 70
  • It’s $129, the same price as any other notebook battery at the Apple Store.

    There’s a very big difference.  For other Macbooks you can simply go in and buy a new battery.  With the Air, you have to leave it at the store (for god knows how long) and have them do it.

    That anyone can justify that nonsense is beyond me.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • It would have been interesting if the Macbook Air had simply replaced the Macbook at maybe a slightly higher price point - say $1199.  That would make it a no-brainer.  Same specs as the Macbook but smaller and thinner.  Now that would have been something.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • It’s $129, the same price as any other notebook battery at the Apple Store.

    Except just like RAM, one would be mad not to get an alternate battery elsewhere.

    The Air is a bit of beauty, but it’s just too much of a compromise in my opinion.

    barrowman had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 15
  • I disagree with those who feel it should cost less than a MacBook. In the electronics/computers industry, the smaller an object is, the more expensive it is compared to others in its class. It takes a lot of engineering skills and a choice of expensive parts to make things small enough to fit into the form factor. As an engineer, I guarantee the cost of development for the MBA was far higher than that of the MB. So there’s simply no way Apple could justify selling it for less than a MB.

    Compared to other subnotebooks, the market it is intending to hit, the cost is no higher than the cost of those notebooks. The Sony TX series has been THE subnotebook to get these days for size. My wife has one of those and it runs slow as molasses due to its crippled ULV processor. The MBA would run rings around it and costs less to boot.

    The MBA and MB just aren’t in the same market so their costs simply cannot be compared just based on stats.

    Pleiades had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 4
  • Ultraportables are lighter and usually smaller (in this case thinner)  AND allways pricier computers, the cost of and epecial made cpu and extra small componentes tend to rise the price, people who use ultraportables know about it…. so then what is this article about after all? just more bitchin?

    aberracus had this to say on Jan 21, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I’m so very upset and disappointed that the Ferrari F430 is so goddamned expensive and yet I can’t even fit a decent sized suitcase in it.  And the noise it makes! Omigod!  But did I tell you that it’s really fast?

    Tanner, that’s how you sound.  You’ve already won the miss-the-whole-freaking-point-by-a-mile award.  Time to give it a rest.

    tundraboy had this to say on Jan 22, 2008 Posts: 132
  • First of all, to compare this thing to a Ferrari doesn’t get more delusional.  The Macbook Air is a mass-produced consumer product made in a factory in China.  Talk about missing the point.

    But comparing a laptop to a Ferrari does betray the view that products like the Macbook Air are nothing more than status-symbols for the rich who like to compensate for their small penises.

    And if you’re going to do that, stick with a REAL status symbol, like a Ferrari, instead of elevating some mass-produced electronic gizmo to a stupidly absurd level.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 22, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • I’m not a car enthusiast and don’t really care but I’d say you’ve missed the point. A car is meant to be driven and is portable in itself, that it can be taken anywhere with relative ease. Same thing with a MacBook Air but for the price it’s being positioned as a main computer with secondary or even backup computer specs. It’d be the equivalent of driving a Ferrari branded Van. Sure it’s a car but it’s not what a real Ferrari is.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Jan 22, 2008 Posts: 70
  • I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the main buyers of the MBA are women. I’ve noticed over the years that women tend to value size, weight, and portability over everything and that includes performance and screen resolution. Men tend to have the belief that bigger is better and would trend towards the 17” MBP rather than the lightweight MBA. The women in our office almost all have tiny ultra-portables weighing three pounds or less while not a single man in our office has one. In fact some of the men in the office have huge 10+ pound Windows laptops with 17” screens. On of the primary requirements of the women are that the laptop must fit in their shoulder bags.

    The only problem I see with the MBA and its target audience is that it might be TOO big. Being only marginally smaller in dimensions than the MacBook, its weight and coolness factor may not be a good enough incentive. I think this is where Steve missed the mark. He’s a guy so he made the choice of the bigger screen, not realizing that his target market considers that way down the list of priorities for the ultra-portable market. My wife, who is seriously considering a MBA made that comment to me that it’s probably too big and that soured it in her eyes.

    Pleiades had this to say on Jan 22, 2008 Posts: 4
  • Okay, Tanner let’s not say Ferrari.  Let’s say the much much cheaper Mazda RX-8.  Same point holds.

    Apple is trying to hit market-differentiated segments here.  You are unhappy with the MBA because it doesn’t hit the product space you wished it did.

    The product space you should compare the MBA to is the one for lightweight (3 lbs and under) laptops.  Then the MBA doesn’t fare too badly price-wise and feature-wise.  Yes, they picked a different compromise than Sony or Toshiba, they gave up a drive and ports in favor of ergonomics and processing power.  We’ll see if the buying public chooses their set of compromises. 

    You can pan the product if you think it pales against the other lightweights out there.  You can pan the product if you think this is a market segment that Apple is foolish to get into.  But to pan the product because it isn’t more like a MB or MBP or even the 4+ lb 12” PowerBook is, yes, missing the point by a mile.

    tundraboy had this to say on Jan 22, 2008 Posts: 132
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