I just read Jason O’Grady’s most recent post at The Apple Core, where he says he’s going to give up his MacBook Air for now. Why is his uber-sleek and thin Mac getting put aside temporarily? The main reason is one we’ve been repeating over and over for a few years here and it has to do with the intended usage of a device. Not to kick a dead horse, but this is the biggest reason we never answer the "What’s the best device?" question that we get here. And believe you me: we get it almost weekly.
To be fair, Jason’s workflow changed as he no longer commutes to work, but instead works at home. It sounds like he works at a desk, not in multiple locations, but I’m simply guessing on that part. That aspect alone means that he doesn’t need a light, think device, although that doesn’t preclude him from using one either. It just becomes less of a requirement or need.
The nail in his MacBook Air’s coffin is the device’s performance for the tasks he needs to do. And this exmplifies the message we’ve been trying to send, but maybe we’ve done a poor job at it: figure out what you need your device for and then figure out what device fits those needs best. Jason listed all of the apps that he needs to run on his Mac daily: "lots of browser tabs open, NetNewsWire checking 500+ RSS feeds, Mail, Adium, Photoshop, BBEdit and iTunes running." I honestly would think that these application set would work fine on the 1.6 GHz MBA with 2 GB of RAM as only Photoshop (and maybe iTunes…) is what I’d call a truly heavy hitter. Still, the performance didn’t meet Jason’s expectations and at the very end of his post, he figured out that for his requirements set, the MacBook Air is a "capable second machine."
That’s not to say that MacBook Air couldn’t be a capable primary machine and this is a point truly worth highlighting. From what I’ve heard, Steve Rubel uses an Air (please correct me if I’m wrong Steve!) and is very happy with it. How can this be, since it’s the same device that Jason isn’t happy with? Simple: Steve doesn’t run many apps and spends the majority of his time in a browser. Put another way: the MacBook Air is a very capable primary machine for Steve because he has a different requirement set than Jason. I simply can’t underscore that point enough.
This is also why I can and now do use a UMPC as a primary device and happily live in the browser on my Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. My actual computing and storage needs are quite meager as compared to many of you. I’m sure we’ll say this again many times over, but you have to use the right tool for the task. It’s really as simple as that and while I can’t guarantee that you’ll make the right device decisions, I can guarantee that you have a better chance at making one.