Mac World San Francisco, 2008.

Every blog and forum I read has had a commentary on MWSF 2008, universally considered the Christmas of the consumer Mac world. Having bought an iPhone just shy of five days before the keynote, I'll start off by saying I was somewhat worried that my shiny new device would already be out of date. Luckily, not only was the iPhone not replaced, but it received a nice software update. The most important feature is that which allows me to manually manage the music and videos on the device, just like my iPod.

The first thing Jobs revealed was Time Capsule. It's a relatively simple device, it's basically Apple's Airport Extreme base station hooked to a 500GB or 1TB "server grade" hard disc. The gist of the device is that you can easily set up Time Machine to automatically and wirelessly use the Time Capsule as its backup drive. You can use it with "all the Macs in your house." Simple enough, and I think it's a cool device, the only questions I've got so far involve whether or not you can add to the storage in your Time Capsule, or if it would be possible to own more than one Time Capsule, and concatenate the available amounts of storage.

Afterward, Jobs demonstrated some iPhone software updates. I installed the iPhone software update recently, and without a doubt, my favorite feature, the feature that might actually cause me to keep the iPhone, is the ability to manage my music and movies manually. It's how I use my 30-gig video iPod, and I'm glad it's available for the iPhone. The third major announcement of the keynote was new iTunes movie rentals. I'm really excited about that one because like Jobs says, I'm the kind of person who doesn't really watch movies more than once. In a way, it's a lot like a daily ticket on satellite TV, where I can watch the same movie several times in one day. It'll be like in December when I watched "Chuck & Larry" about five times.

Part of the iTunes update involved AppleTV. In this part, Jobs admits that they'd gotten the concept of AppleTV wrong, and provides updates on the software of AppleTV, including the new user interface and renting an HD movie. The whole experience looks really well designed, and I've got to admit that the AppleTV with its software update looks really nice. I don't really want one, but I also don't really have an appropriate television with which I'd be able to peruse the content.

By far, the most important part of the keynote, the one causing the most controversy online, is the MacBook Air. Let me start by saying that I think the MacBook Air is an awesome product, and it's something Apple hasn't had in awhile. Let me also say that it's not something I'm going to be buying any time soon. Even though I think it looks awesome, and would love to be able to bust one out during class, but the high price and the fact that I've already got three working IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads, all of which have reasonable battery life, and good capability as note taking machines.

The main problem with MacBook Air, of course, is the price. For $1800 (retail) you get a 1.6GHz Core2Duo, from the new Penryn platform, 2 gigabytes of memory, and an 80 gigabyte hard disc. You don't get much other than that, of course, because being so thin, Apple had to make compromises somewhere, and they did it in reasonable areas I think. The backlit keyboard is full size, and the LED-backlit display is a full 13.3" glossy display, similar to the MacBook's display.

Not included are an optical drive, and a few "essential" ports. What I've noticed is that the biggest grouching people have been doing is the result of the ports. The MacBook Air features only a MagSafe power port on the left side, and on the right side behind a little door, one USB port, one "Micro DVI" port, and one audio output port. The biggest things the MacBook Air is missing is apparently another four USB ports, audio input, an internal optical drive, and FireWire. What bugs me about that is that the inclusion of those things basically turns the MacBook Air into a MacBook Pro, plus a few extra USB ports.

The problem with this, of course, is that the entire point of the MacBook Air isn't the thing those people want. Those people want a $599 mobile machine, as fast as a full-sized MacBook, with discrete graphics, basically adding up to a 12" PowerBook G4.

My take is that the MacBook Air is really intended as a companion Mac to a powerful desktop computer. I can see a lot of Mac Pro owners, or people whose desktops are high end iMac systems wanting one of these to use as their mobile systems, especially if they, like myself, prefer doing as much computing as possible on their desktop systems when they're in their offices or homes. MacBook Air is great then, for people who need something they can use on a plane or train, and that they need to be as light as possible. When it comes down to it, there will be people who are willing to pay this price for such a mobile computer.

Maybe if I were more patient, and hadn't already bought the ThinkPad, I would've gotten one, although I'm really happy with the ThinkPad, and think I'll have it for quite some time to come as my mobile computer. Maybe my next mobile machine will be some kind of MacBook Air successor.

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