The verdict on Apple

My gadget-loving buddy Jake Ludington saw the MacWorld keynote today and called Steve Jobs’ announcements “lackluster.”

And then Omar Shahine, whose gadget radar is as finely tuned as anyone (and who works for Microsoft, for cryin’ out loud), admits to “drooling” over the new Apple hardware and calls them “a nice set of announcements.”

I was, frankly, underwhelmed. I wouldn’t trade my Tablet PC with its 200GB 7200RPM drive for a Macbook Air with an 80GB 4200RPM drive. And Apple TV looks like a local franchise for the Steve Jobs Video Store, where you can stuff dollar bills in it and they get pneumatically transferred straight to Cupertino. No thanks…

So what did you all think?

27 thoughts on “The verdict on Apple

  1. The same thing I think every time: An immediate “OMG” followed by an hours-later “WTF.”

    The Air is the perfect example. It’s teensy, the specs are very solid for a machine of that size, and it looks gorgeous. I start thinking, wow, that’s way cooler than my ThinkPad X61t.

    And then I see the details. Low-res 1280×800 screen (I love the 1440×1050), slow hard drive or preposterously expensive SSD, no Ethernet port, non-replaceable battery, only one USB port, no card readers. And then I start thinking more about the functionality of the ThinkPad — Tablet functionality, of course; a fingerprint reader; loads of useful if inelegant buttons that come in handy, PgUp and PgDn keys, etc.

    Apple has a remarkable way of making stuff that’s almost really really cool, but fatally flawed and totally useless to me. But obviously others don’t agree, and I’m sure that tech conferences will be loaded with those Airs for the next year or two.

  2. I thought the air was a super cool, thin laptop. But impractical for me. Its too big, I mean in area. Frankly, the height isn’t that big a deal for me, but if they’d had it at say a 9″ screen. And what’s the deal (Seinfeld reference) with the multi-touch touchpad? What’s wrong with their sweet iPhone touch screen? Now, If it were an iPhone-esque touch screen tablet with at most a 12″ screen, I’d be drooling like everyone else. Right now, the only use I’d have for it is sliding it in and out of a manilla envelope and “ooohing” at it.

  3. I agree with you, Ed: this is more like a big screen iPod or an extension to the AppleTV than it is a laptop. When I think of mobility in computers I think small, light, extendible, and as full-featured as possible. I don’t think thin, light, underpowered, but really, really cool looking. I mean, seriously, ONE USB port? And why was “thin” the primary focus?

    How’s this for an analogy?: the MacBook Air is like a beautifully hand crafted, elegant Samurai knife while the the X61 Tablet PC is a custom-made, kick-ass Swiss Army knife. If you were a road warrior, which would you prefer?

  4. Anyone else notice that Microsoft is becoming more and more “customer friendly” and Apple is becoming more and more “not”?

    The $20 “upgrade fee” for iPod Touch users to get the same functionality as new iPod Touches just kills me….esp. after the Zune update.

    Macbook Air is very pretty, but it’s just that…pretty. I prefer practical. Btw, speaking of practical, how can you re-install your OS on this thing? There’s no drive and no recovery DVDs!

    The Time Capsule is a big “yawn”

    Apple TV Rentals sounds oddly like wannabe Xbox Live…. I’ve been renting HD movies on XBL for over a year now and I love it. It’s my way of giving a big middle finger to BluRay and HD DVD b/c I can just watch the movie w/out having to buy extra equipment.

    Lastly, I agree w/ Stephen Hudson’s comment — the Macbook Air truly IS a disposable laptop!

  5. As an ultraportable, I’m willing to put up with compromises. My x61s has plenty, but the light weight (2.8 pounds) more than makes up for the poor screen resolution, average speed, and lack of optical drive. However, one sacrifice that no laptop user should ever have to make is a lack of replaceable battery. Absolutely a non-starter for a wide variety of people. Not only from the perspective of “what do you do with this thing when the battery dies”, but how do you use this for all day, power cordless computing? You can’t.

  6. What do I think? I think you’re a Microsoft drone. Tablet PC! You’re one of the three that have one? Give me a break. You’re buying in to your leader’s (Gates) message of how great the Tablet PC is. It hasn’t caught on and it will not.

    Microsoft is the new IBM. Lifeless, uninspiring and black to the core.

  7. Diego, how ironic! So I should choose hardware based on whether it “catches on”? How about if I decide based on how it works for me? PS: I’m writing this on a Tablet PC…

  8. I like the idea a lot. I hate having to carry my heavy laptop right now, and I almost never use my DVD drive nor the USB ports (and any ports on the laptop for that matter…). So I think it’s actually a pretty good idea. Why have an optical drive and all that crap? It’s better to have something easy to carry. I am a big believer in desktops, so my desktop is definitely my main computer.

    A laptop is good for reading stuff on the go only. I don’t want to develop, nor play games on a laptop. I do want to watch a movie, read my news/email on it. This thing looks awesome for this. No mostly-useless clutter like ethernet, optical drives and such. Sounds perfect. The only big no-no is the price of course. I would by the SSD version only, but will wait for 1 or 2 generations and buy when the prices are low. I’m happy that this will set a precedent for other manufacturers that will probably start offering no-hassle ultra portable laptops.

    The Apple TV thing is as good/bad as the Xbox live I guess. It’s OK if you want HD on the cheap side (quality and price wise). I am personally not convinced by MS’s nor Apple’s offerings on this yet. I prefer having a bluray drive with Media Center, and watch HD movies in full quality. Also, an Apple TV or Xbox may sound cheap, but I’m sure it’s actually more expensive in the long run (after you pay the live fees + per movie rentals…) than Netflix + Vista Media Center or PS3.

  9. I’ve owned and played with several subnotebooks ranging from the Sony u101 series to the Asus S2N, etc. All of these laptops were smaller than the MacBook Air and much more feature packed. The Asus S2N is approaching 5 years old and has 2 USB ports, 1 Firewire port, no optical disk, 40gig hard drive, and wireless. It also has a user replaceable battery which the MacBook Air lacks. Actually the Asus is brilliant because it has a second internal battery so I can swap out the external ones without powering down the machine. It’s powered by a 1.0ghz Pentium M processor and does fine for 99.9% of business-related work.

    The ultra portable landscape has loads of UMPC, MID, and other gadgets out there. If I want something small then I would go for an OQO, Fujitsu P810, Sony TZ, or a Panasonic notebook. Why must I pay the Apple tax in this arena?

    Steve didn’t think this one through in my opinion. Most college kids will look at the cheapest Mac options out there. The richer ones will trade for a more full featured notebook. Those of us who have been importing notebooks from the Far East for several years because we actually use our devices (instead of showing them off) won’t be buying Apple.

    About the only thing today’s Steve Note did was turn the Apple fanbois loose onto the ultra thin & light notebook topic. Does anyone really think a rabid iPod junkie with dreams of an iPhone is going to tell a mobile professional what I need to do my work? I didn’t think so. Chalk this one up as a bomb/failure. Anyone pandering to the MacBook Air otherwise needs to try flying between London and San Francisco a bit more often with meeting to conduct on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s who this was targeted at, right?

  10. I thought the MacBook Air was VERY cool, though it’s obviously intended for a specific market segment. I currently have an old Pentium III-M Compaq N410c that’s about 0.9″ thick and 3.5 pounds. If it ever breaks, I’d strongly consider replacing it with a MacBook Air. However, I think the lack of 3G cellular data access is a ridiculous oversight on a device called the “Air.”

    Overall, I was underwhelmed by the announcements. We knew about the iPhone software upgrade, the new Apple TV stuff was obvious, and the iTunes rentals aren’t close to the deal Netflix offers for mail-in DVDs. I also think the video quality of iTunes–>Apple TV downloads is atrocious , so that’s not helping.

  11. Ed: “Diego, how ironic! So I should choose hardware based on whether it “catches on”?”

    No, that is true. One must not go with something simply because it catches on. In that case you may very well end up using an inferior product. You end up settling. Like using Windows.

  12. Before Apple switched to Intel processors, there was a loyal following for Apple’s small 12″ Powerbook (G4) laptop. It has a good balance of size vs. features and was a very good mini-laptop that could be used at home or on the road. When Apple switched to Intel and only released the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros there was keen disappointment within the Apple community. Many hoped that the MacBook Air would be the laptop to replace the 12″ Powerbook…but not so.

    I was also hoping for that 11-12″ sub-notebook with near standard features.

    The MacBook Air is a beautiful and sexy design accomplishment with some very real compromises due to its form factor.

    The best quote I read yesterday went something like….”Of course I’d like to have one, but at that price I wouldn’t buy it for myself!”

  13. @ Diego

    You sound so arrogant and filled with animosity. MS is “black to the core”? Drone following “leader” Bill Gates? You know this isn’t some religious battle right? This is just technology.

    “In that case you may very well end up using an inferior product. You end up settling. Like using Windows.”

    Jeez! You make it sound like people will burn in hell if they don’t choose Apple! At least I’m guessing this is the company you’re worshiping (quite literally too it seems from what you had to say).

    About the Macbook Air: it looks nice but it’s functionality is way too limited. Thickness and size are not a big deal as long as it is small enough (not so good that the footprint isn’t any smaller than current Macbooks). What is important is weight, utility and features.

  14. I own a Sony TX model notebook and I honestly wouldn’t trade it for one of these. The lack of a user-replaceable battery alone , after all the horrible hassles I have had with mfr-only batteries in devices, is a deal-killer. Ditto the lack of wired networking (hope no one’s running a microwave!), the bog-slow hard drive…

  15. The MacBook air is nice-looking but there were too many compromises to get it thin. I applaud them for the design efforts although at $1800, I think Steve is losing it.

    The itunes video rental idea is taking a page out of xbox live’s book, but with more studios onboard. Steve has the music industry AND the video moguls in his pocket now. However, the question remains…whose going to buy an apple tv when they can spend a little more on a 360 that can do the same thing and more. And, the 360 can do divx now, which makes it even more valuable if you’re not willing to use their video store.

    Apple may be the only company with fans so blindly devoted that they will pay $20 to update an mp3 player that they bought yesterday. It’s absurd and someone (engadget, gizmodo, etc) should call Apple out for it…although I understand these days that’s not likely to happen. The “apple can do no wrong” theme of the previous years holds true in 08 I see….

  16. “Jeez! You make it sound like people will burn in hell if they don’t choose Apple! ”

    Exactly! You got it just right. People that don’t choose Apple all go to hell.

  17. Ban Diego. He has nothing to add to the conversation.

    As for his tablet PC comments, well, they speak for themselves. The cool thing about tablet PCs is that the tablet funtions are assets, not replacements. So people who don’t yet “get it”, can still use all the functionality of a regular laptop until the lightbulb comes on. Really, if Microsoft had gotten more behind the tablet PC, right now it would be an option on all laptops. It would be stupid to consider one without it. That’s how good the functionality really is.

    I’m typing this on my X60 tablet, but in a minute, I’m going to swivel into slate mode and pull out the pen to mark up a document for a friend.

  18. Ban Diego …

    I think you misspelled San Diego.

    Oh, wait… 😉

    I’ve banned a handful of people from this site over the years, most temporarily and only a handful permanently for something other than spamming. My philosophy on comments has always been built around the notion of free speech and the philosophy that the best antidote to bad speech is more speech. Your very persuasive comment is proof, IMO, that some good can come from allowing stupid trolls to continue to embarrass themselves.

    Besides, I assume Diego has the attention span of a hyperactive fruit fly and that he probably won’t be able to find his way back here.

  19. Ed, good point (and funny). I guess my quick response was due to the fact that I’m seeing more and more of this stuff appearing on blogs I respect. It’s gotten so bad in fact, that sometimes, reading the comments is akin to sifting through the compost pile for that stick of Juicy Fruit you accidentally threw out last week…it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’m not saying that the commenters here are in that category — just the opposite. Your commenters, for the most part, are a genial and intelligent bunch. I just don’t want to see the comments area slip into the compost pile, because I enjoy reading and learning from the responses here.

  20. I hear ya, cvb. That’s certainly the way it is at ZDNet, and not just at my place. The noise side of the signal-to-noise ratio is way too large there.

    I won’t let that happen here for precisely the reasons you state. With luck, I’ll never have to deal with the question except in one-off instances like this.

  21. Ed, please refrain from personal insults. I did not insult you, correct?

    As for comments, they are just fun. 99% of blog comments are just a waste of time and only now and then do I partake to take the piss out of people. For example, the line about going to hell if one doesn’t use Apple products, that was me being facetious. The problem there is that some people misunderstand things when there isn’t a liberal sprinkling of smiley faces. Whose lack therefore, this time, was intentional.

    As for someone not “getting it” when it comes to Tablet PCs, that’s amusing coming from someone in the Microsoft loving crowd. A lot of what Apple does and has done over the years people just don’t get. At least not for a while then they realise, oh wait, that’s actually a good idea. That will be the case with the MBA and this post. As for Tablet PCs, they been around long enough for people to get it. Given that, it’s obviously the case that there is nothing to get and they are (and will remain) a niche product.

    In the end, someone who makes a living from Microsoft products (whether directly or indirectly) has a vested interest in towing the party line. Even more so an author basing content on Microsoft’s work. Hence the numerous Microsoft bloggers, or people who make a living from Microsoft’s work, who come out and comment on Apple’s business (and do so negatively) are only really doing it because they have such a vested interest in one thing (Microsoft). All this makes your comments about Apple even more irrelevant and of no interest or importance to anyone, besides yourself.

    Blog comments are better off turned off. They detract from a blog’s message and content. Sure, once in a while something good comes along. But in the end it’s a turd that attracts the flies. 🙂 <- see the smiley. Please take note of it.

  22. Diego, only days ago, in the very first words of his very first comment here:

    “I think you’re a Microsoft drone.”

    Diego today:

    “Ed, please refrain from personal insults. I did not insult you, correct? ”

    I was right about the attention span.

  23. Diego,

    How are people supposed to parse your “facetious” comments from your attempts to take the piss out of people? There are no body language clues in plain text, and when spouting the mantra of Apple fanatics on a site geared toward Microsoft coverage, well, it’s just plain rude. Insulting. Non-productive. Biased. Etc.

    As for tablet PCs, despite what you and the press want us to believe, they have not been a total failure. If they had, do you think HP, Toshiba, Dell, Fujitsu, and others would still be producing them? Do you think, 5 years after their launch, there would be MORE companies producing them rather than less? No, I don’t think you do. But a Microsoft success, even a minor one, doesn’t seem to fit the worldview you’re interested in promoting.

    The fact of the matter is that tablets are slowly gaining ground. No, they’re not a roaring success by any stretch of the imagination, but the sales have increased. I think the early decision to market them predominantly to business users was a mistake. Most people haven’t even seen a tablet in retail, and let’s face it, that’s where many people make purchasing decisions. This is where marketing comes in…if Microsoft had devoted the kind of money that they did for the Zune, for instance, you’d see a lot more tablets in use today. Despite little marketing, nitch markets are thriving — students being one of them, as being able to take notes in your own handwriting, reorganize those notes, and search throughout your handwritten notes, is nothing short of amazing. Folks who see it for the first time are generally quite impressed.

    It’s really hard to see the benefit of tablet PCs if you don’t want to. And that’s not just hyperbole — I see it everywhere, generally coming from people who’ve neither used one or understand how the OS integrates the pen, touch, and the use of digital ink.

    And finally, Apple makes great hardware and software. So does Microsoft and its partners. My decision to go with Microsoft doesn’t invalidate your own choices so don’t try to invalidate mine. If that’s what you need to feel good about your computing decisions, what the hell are you doing here? Find a Mac fan site, for crying out loud, where your facetious and piss-extracting comments will be applauded, whether fact-free or not. It just makes good sense and will lead to a happier and healtier life for all of us (:

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