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"World's thinnest" laptop, MacBook, newly put out by Apple. Users' merit also "thin"

2, 14. 2008

   Apple conducted its major annual event, Macworld, on Jan. 15, 2008. Featured at the occasion was the introduction of a new notebook computer which has long been rumoured about. It was a practical product far from the dream of Apple products being made compatible with Windows software.

   Steve Jobs, who delivered the keynote speech, slid out from an large envelope a MacBook Air that is 4 mm thick at the thinnest part and about 2 cm at the thickest part and claimed to be the world's thinnest laptop. Inside the hall was then full of applause, but the atmosphere may have been quite different elsewhere. The reaction from at least the stock market could not be said to be enthusiastic. The price of the Apple share on that day was said to be down 5.5% from the previous day.

Structure is mediocre. Price is high relatively to function

MacBook Air.  Advance orders are now being accepted for shipping two or three week later
MacBook Air. Advance orders are now being accepted for shipping two or three week later

   The new MacBook is priced in Japan at 229,800 yen for standard option. Its looks surprisingly good from the outside. The price, however, is mediocre at best when the "inside" is looked at carefully. It must be said the price is rather high proportionally to what it can perform./p>

   The CPU, hard disc, memory chip and other main parts are not different from the conventional mobile notebook computers in their structure and performance. In other words, it is mediocre. Only the 13.3-inch wide LCD screen and the standard 2GB memory might attract attention. This is, of course, for that price.

   As a short point, on the other hand, it can be said the interfaces are excessively conspicuous, such as the optical drive, card slot and Ethernet (LAN). The "Air" is supposed to mean "wireless," but the technology is not anything new. It only means that the LAN port for cable has been removed. The FireWire (IEEE 1394), the interface Apple has long adhered, has also been removed.

   The drive, card reader, LAN and other products using the USB port can be purchased. But there is only USB port on the computer. This means various different types of peripheral parts have to take their turns to be connected to the computer. Does this mean that the MacBook Air is a smart, epoch-making personal computer?

"World's thinnest" means but only a small magic box

Full-size keyboard.  Few sales points except thinness
Full-size keyboard. Few sales points except "thinness"

   It may be said, after all, that the value of the new MacBook lies only in that it is the "world's thinnest." Even this is doubtful if it has practical merit.

   The portability of a notebook computer can not be decided by how thin it is, but its weight, volume should be combined and taken into consideration. These largely depend on the size of the LCD screen, whether or not it has the optical drive and the battery life.

   Let us compare the MacBook Air with the Sony's notebook computer, VAIO type G, which Jobs pointed out as a rival product. The VGN-G2KAN, which was first marketed about three months ago (and is getting rather old as a laptop) has a 12.1-inch screen, can be used for 11.5 hours on its battery and weighs 1.143 kg. It is equipped with a DVD super multi-drive and has LAN and memory card slot and PC-card slot. It is now retailed at less than 200,000 yen at lowest.

   The MacBook Air that does not have optical drive has 13.1-inch screen and works for five hours on the battery. It weighs 1,360 g, or 200g heavier than the VAIO. The size of the MacBook is 325x19.4x227mm, while that of the VAIO is 277x25.5x215mm. Their volumes are about the same and the difference in "thinness" is about 6mm.

   What meaning does the difference of 6 mm have? The user can carry around the MacBook Air in an envelope as suggested by Jobs and surprise someone by showing him or her by sliding out the computer out of the envelope. But that kind of "magic" can be performed only one time to a person.

Jobs says he is looking toward future...

Sony's VAIO VGN-G2KAN, rival to new MacBook.  Difference in thickness is about 6mm
Sony's VAIO VGN-G2KAN, rival to new MacBook. Difference in thickness is about 6mm

   Jobs said the MacBook Air does not have the optical drive to send out a message that it is no longer necessary. This writer also wrote last week that the optical drive might disappear in the future.

   What already disappeared from the MacBook Air, however, include not only the optical drive but also many other things that are too early to be taken off. Were they taken off deliberately from or they could not be kept on the new computer? This writer can not help feeling that its users are paying high price for buying the "world's thinnest."

   This writer also wonder if there were some other points by which to send out "looking toward future" message. For example, if the flash memory and SSD, that are optional at the additional price of about 120,000 yen, are attached to the standard model, this writer would accept it even if its interface is a little poor and it becomes little thicker.

   No one would complain about thinner mobile implements. But there is no sense if the convenience for the users is totally taken off. The new MacBook is like the tuna sashimi that is sliced too thin. It is a tasteless computer.

(by Jun Torakoda)

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