Happy Birthday MacBook Air

Anthony Caruana
22 January, 2018
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Ten years ago, the most significant emerging market in the computer business was the netbook. These looked like typical laptops of the day shrunk down to about the size of a paperback novel.

MacBook Air, Apple, macworld australiaThey were the ultimate expression, at the time, of the compromises people were prepared to accept over in Windows-Land when it came to portable computing. They were small and light, and offered all the connectivity options of the day including multiple USB ports, video output and an Ethernet jack. But the keyboards and displays were small making them handy for short bursts of activity rather than a full day at work.

Then Steve Jobs appeared on stage at the Macworld Expo for his annual keynote address. Sitting by him was an envelope. There was nothing special about this envelope. But inside it were two things in one svelte package. One was the ultimate netbook killer. The other was Apple’s take on what the future of portable computing would become.

The MacBook Air was revolutionary. And, like all revolutions there was a resistance by the old guard. There aren’t enough USB ports they said. What if we want to use a wired network they asked. But it was so thin – “thinpossible” became a new term in the company’s marketing lexicon.

Today, the MacBook Air has been all but abandoned. It’s no longer the pinnacle of Apple’s portable computing design. It’s now the least expensive portable Mac. The 11-inch model is gone, much to chagrin of some, with the 13-inch model remaining unchanged for three years.

The MacBook has usurped it as Apple’s preferred, but far more expensive, premium portable and the MacBook Pro, with its fancy TouchBar is now the flagship portable.

Will Apple update the MacBook Air? Who knows. I hope they do. Perhaps the MacBook Air and Mac mini – another neglected member of the Mac family – will see some love in the coming months. But Apple’s way has always been to look forward at what they can do, rather than looking back. That’s why they stopped making the most popular iPod of the time, the iPod mini, and replaced it within the iPod Nano. And it’s why there are no more music-only iPods, with just the iPod touch remaining from the product line that saved Apple.

So, raise a glass to the MacBook Air – the Mac that changed portable computing.

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