The New Macbook Air - Don't call it a netbook, except that's what it is, isn't it?

Article first published as The New Macbook Air - Don't Call It a Netbook, Unless That's What It Really Is on Blogcritics.

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 21:  The new 11-inch MacBook...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
So, I finally got a chance to play with the new Macbook Air this weekend. I stopped by the beautiful new Apple store in Chicago (North/Halsted) and before purchasing a wireless keyboard for my iPad (the primary objective), I gave both the 11.6" and the 13"MBA's the once over. Here are some thoughts:


1) Yes, they are very light and very thin. 
This was to be expected, but I wanted to confirm that 2.3 and 2.9 pounds really felt noticeably lighter than some of the other laptops I've used over the years. Similarly, the thinness of the machine was also ogled over, and both need to be experienced in person to truly appreciate the engineering feat. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the screen opened, and the design of the front lip seems to make it easier to open than even my current Macbook Pro.

2) The Core 2 Duo seems to be adequate enough.
Immediately upon waking the machine, I clicked on as many icons in the dock as I could. The outdated processor seemed to handle the multitasking processes with ease, and I had close to ten applications up and running within seconds. If the battery life lives up to expectations, then the sacrifice of a better processor (Core i3 for example) seems to be acceptable.

3) You will be able to take the 11.6" anywhere.
A full size keyboard goes a long way on a small laptop, and Apple has done a great job of packing one into the 11-inch Macbook Air. Just as Apple found the 13-inch sweet spot for laptop screens (anything larger just seems a bit too big for me now), the company may be defining another category with the 11.6" screen. This is probably as small as you want to take a laptop without beginning to sacrifice functionality. I could see spending a long amount of time on the machine, unlike using a typical 7" netbook. However, I wouldn't trade a 13-inch experience if I had one.

Which brings me to the real question, and I will focus primarily on a education point of view. Who is the new Macbook Air really for? I was hoping that with rumors of the price drop prior to release, we'd have a machine that students could realistically afford and/or schools could stock their 1:1 programs with. The problem is that the Air is still a showcase for design, and although Apple hit a sub-$1000 price point, I find it hard to recommend buying the Air for education when a much better equipped Macbook Pro can be had for just another $100.

With a lesser processor, no optical drive, and a miniscule hard disk, you really are paying more for the fewer pounds. Students would surely be impressed by the "wow" factor of the uber thin and light, and with cloud applications so prevalent, the Air is certainly taking the right steps toward the future of notebooks. Perhaps, this is how a "netbook" should be designed and re-defined. Instead of being associated with inexpensive, underpowered, and too small, netbooks should be fully functional for today's computing requirements and sized enough for usability without compromise. Whether they remain associated with being inexpensive is the most interesting question. For a few hundred dollars less, I think Apple would have made a real impact on this continuously intriguing market.

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