Saturday, October 16, 2010

Will there be an 11" MacBook Air?

There are lots of rumours swirling that Apple will release an 11.6" MacBook Air on October 20. Personally, I'd like to see this happen (and I've been wanting one for a long time), since in my view the expensive 13" Air never made a whole lot of sense. It has the same footprint as the 13" MacBook Pro, has no optical drive, is slower, has fewer ports, yet costs a lot more. In other words, Apple provided a severely dumbed down 13" MacBook Pro for a heluvalot more money.

My favourite Mac laptop form factor of all time is the 12" iBook/PowerBook. Sure it was a bit bulky and it wasn't super light, but it had a much smaller footprint than my current 13" MacBook Pro. Remove the optical drive, swap in a widescreen 11.x" 1366x768 monitor, make it thinner, and you've got a winner… but only if the price is right.

With the PowerBook line, smaller and less feature rich meant cheaper. With the Air, Apple reversed direction and declared thinner (but with the same footprint) and less feature rich means more expensive. In fact, lots more expensive.

One theory is that any new 11.6" MacBook Air would only have an SSD, with no option for a conventional hard drive. If this decision is made, then the machine could be one of the smallest ever made… but could also be horrendously expensive for that category.

What I want is an inexpensive machine that's lighter and easier to use on the plane than a 13" laptop. SSD is nice, but for most people (including myself) not really worth the price premium at this time. If Apple gives us another overpriced Air, just in a smaller form factor, I may just end up getting a Windows 7 11.6" machine instead. However, that's assuming that AMD can come through with its low power but reasonably performing and inexpensive Ontario APU, or else Intel can price one of their low power but high performing chips competitively.

By the way, I have been playing with an older Windows 7 dual-core Atom machine, with NVIDIA ION GPU. I'm pleasantly surprised. It's reasonably responsive, and even plays Blu-ray smoothly. I'm enjoying the machine more than I thought I would, and that's why I'm considering a 11"-12" Windows 7 laptop for 2011… unless Apple can provide us with a smaller but decently priced MacBook Air.