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Why I Won’t Buy the MacBook Air

All right, I have your attention. But I’m perfectly serious. You see, I like to get a new note-book every two years or so, which is sufficient time for the older model to seem laggard compared to the latest and greatest hardware.

So it would seem that 2008 is the right year for me to begin to do some window shopping, and not for a Windows note-book I might add. Aside from cost considerations, I have to consider what works best for my particular situation, including the features I need and the ones I can sacrifice.

Long ago, a Mac note-book had a screen of less than 10 inches, and that was a huge impediment to my workflow, particularly since my desktop Macs usually have the largest displays I can afford or acquire for extended evaluation. It’s so easy to become accustomed to a huge expanse of desktop space, and it can get quite claustrophobic when the screen real estate is reduced.

So with a 17-inch PowerBook G4 — and later the comparably-sized MacBook Pro — I feel that I have a screen size that represents a suitable compromise. Apple doesn’t have note-books with larger screens. The Windows variants that do are big, clumsy, and just not suited to carrying around for long distances. To be sure, the larger MacBook Pro’s 6.8 pounds weight, plus lots of accessories, provides me with a rather heavy case to lug around. Since I’m not a backpack person, I just let it hang from my shoulder, which is alright for short trips, but not so comfortable when traveling from the airport check-in line, through security and then to the gate, which is always at the other end of the terminal.

Maybe they do that to make us accustomed to the real pain, which comes when you’re crowded into the plane’s cabin as it taxis around endlessly waiting for permission from the control tower to take off.

But, when I finally reached my destination, I’m pleased that I have most everything I need for comfortable portable computing.

Then there’s the MacBook Air, and I’m skeptical.

Granted the Air is a sharp looking computer, although being able to store it in a manila envelope may make it super easy to steal. While I haven’t worked on one, I have used the regular MacBook, which it closely resembles as far as the display and keyboard layout are concerned.

With the MacBook, and the predecessor, the iBook, I felt unnaturally constrained. I seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time scrolling around to view the content I wanted. Imagine how I feel with the iPhone, although I have grown accustomed to its layout, and its limitations.

But even if I could accept a 13.3-inch screen as adequate for my purposes, what about the 80GB hard drive? Well, my MacBook Pro has a 160GB drive, and there’s only about 40GB empty. It’s not that I am a pack rat. However, over time, things begin to accumulate, and it would represent a hard decision to copy that stuff to an external storage device, or dispense with it entirely. I suppose I could do it in a pinch, but why?

Being confined to a wireless connection might be acceptable in many situations, but did Apple forget that some hotels still offer strictly wired Internet in their rooms? So I’d have to make sure that I get their external USB-based Ethernet adapter.

But wait? What about an optical drive? Sure, I can network with one at home or at an office, where there’s another Mac or PC around, using Apple’s new Remote Disc feature? But where do I find the second computer in the hotel room, or on the beach? Do I look for strangers who might allow me to share their DVD drives? Do I even require one often enough to simply buy the external peripheral that Apple offers?

Of course, if I want to have the optical drive and Ethernet connection serve me simultaneously, I need the portable USB hub. Does it have to be powered? Well, there goes portability.

Now I am not concerned about the MacBook Air’s graphic limitations. I’m not a gamer, and my video requirements on the road are basic enough that the Intel graphics chip ought to be sufficient.

Now when it comes to memory, I have to tell you that running Parallels Desktop with Windows Vista and my full assortment of regular applications taxes the 2GB on my MacBook Pro. My next note-book will be equipped with 4GB.

Of course, with the MacBook Air, 2GB is the minimum and the maximum, as it’s hardwired to the logic board. Forget that option.

On the other hand, I realize that there are many people in our audience who would not suffer from its feature omissions. For them, the MacBook Air’s light weight and good looks may be just the ticket.

But not for me.