MacBook Air shelved by blogger: exemplifies our “right tool for the task” maxim


Macbookairsad1I 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.


Chris K

Even if you narrow it down to the hardware options, Tariq, that’s never enough. The Nokia N95 has GPS and 3G, but some people wouldn’t want anything to do with it, all because it’s a little thicker than they’d like. You could recommend an iPhone, but if they want to tether, that’s then out the door. You can recommend a Blackberry, but sometimes the features are a little dicey when it comes to working with Macs, if THAT’S a requirement.

It goes on and on and on, as you know, and it points out the crucial flaws in finding the One True Device.

Tariq Bamadhaj

I couldn’t agree more. It’s the same reply I give to those who ask me what’s the best phone in the market. What’s the point of getting something high-end if all you need is one with Bluetooth to make handsfree call when you are driving. If you have no need for GPS and 3G, what’s the point of shelling out good money for it? It all boils down to your need. Tell me your needs and I’ll recommend you some devices.

Mike Cane

>>>he doesn’t need a light, think device

A Think device would make sure mistakes like that didn’t happen.

Haw haw.

Really, if the MBA doesn’t suit his current needs, I don’t see what the big deal is.

I think why most people ask what device is best for them is because they don’t have the opportunity to test-drive them.

Here I am with a 1.8GHz Celeron and there are times I want to strangle someone for its slowness. And this is with XP and mainly being in *Firefox*. And even though I ditched SP3, MS has snuck some unknown “Updates” into it that make SP2 *slower*. So if other people have been experiencing something like this with their desktop, I can understand the hesitation in choosing a mobile device.

There’s an opportunity for someone sharp out there to hold Demo Nights with a bunch of hardware loaded up with requested software and people can come in one big group at one time and pass around different devices and try them the way they’d use them if they’d spent the $$$ on them. I don’t know how something like that can be done, but there’s a real need for it!


It is all relative. A loaded MacBook Pro can be hard to live with if you normally use a loaded Mac Pro. If a MacBook Air can run everything you need as well as you need it, then get one and do not worry about it. It does not have to be the smallest, fastest, blank-ist notebook to do the job. Plus, no matter what you get, there will always be something smaller, faster, blank-we available or out tomorrow.

Nitin Badjatia

As a happy owner of a MacBook Air, this is the first point I make when someone asks me if it’s the best machine for them. It depends. I’m more like Stevel Rubel, spending 80% of the time inside Firefox. I travel quite a bit, and the Air is perfect for that as well. Surprisingly, even on cross-country flights, I have found the air to be sufficient for my needs. Of course, I am not running Photoshop or anything overly intensive on the machine. When I’m not online, I’m busy preparing presentations, or presenting…not overly intensive stuff.

So your point is spot on Kevin. Of the dozens of people I’ve come across, on planes, in meetings, and amongst friends, I’ve only really recommended the Air to two people. the rest I have persuaded to consider a Mac over a Windows laptop, mostly because of how stable I’ve found my first Mac (this Air). If I could get this thing to tether correctly with my BlackBerry, this would essentially be my cloud computer.

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