MacBook Air is the Apple Netbook, End of Story



Apple Announces Netbook! That’s the headline you wanted to see, right? That’s the headline that industry analysts and so-called experts believe Apple (s aapl) must have in order to remain relevant in today’s economic climate. That’s also the headline you’re not likely to come across unless it happens to be April 1.

“It’s not a space we’re interested in,” according to Steve Jobs, and a few others at Apple. At least one site run by a reputable Mac journalist claims to have first-hand knowledge that a netbook does indeed exist deep inside Apple’s headquarters, but goes on to back up what we’ve already heard: It’s a prototype, and it’s just not going to ship.

The truth is, Apple already has a netbook on the market, which they’ve been selling for quite a while now. It’s called the MacBook Air. It’s a powerful, good-looking notebook with a full-sized keyboard, spacious 120GB hard drive, and a 13.3-inch, backlit LED screen. It’s capable of running a full version of Mac OS X Leopard, iLife, iWork, and Microsoft Office at full speeds, as well as light-duty graphics work in Adobe Photoshop.

Compare that with most sub-$600 netbooks currently on the market, which run some obscure distribution of Linux, or cripple-ware known as Windows XP Home, and you start to see why netbooks aren’t all that appealing for many people. Not to mention, the standard LCD screens fall in the 10-inch range, the touchpad is practically guaranteed to wear out from excessive scrolling, the keyboards are 80 percent of “normal” size for people with Barbie doll-sized hands, and hard drives are smaller than your standard iPod.

And let’s talk about power. The MacBook Air features a full Core 2 Duo processor, while most netbooks are running an Intel Atom or Celeron processor that barely outperforms my digital watch in modern-day tasks!

Do you really want a netbook?

When I ask around to friends and colleagues about why they bought a netbook, the answer was always the same: “It was small and cheap.” But when I ask them what they thought of it outside those two factors, I didn’t get much in the way of positive comments. Tiny screen, hard to type on, cheap-feeling hardware, and junkware were a few of the descriptions I heard. I thought perhaps this was due to the fact that most of these people weren’t terribly computer-savvy folks, but apparently it’s more widespread than that.

According to this report from The NPD Group, a leading market research firm, only 58 percent of consumers who bought a netbook said they were satisfied, while 65 percent said they expected the same performance as a regular laptop. Many were so unsatisfied that they returned them. How many? Intel’s Sean Maloney was quoted in this article as saying, “They [netbooks] had very high return rates, and a couple of these guys [retailers] had return rates in the 30 percent range, which is a disaster.” Three out of every 10 get returned? Yikes!

In fact, after a slight dip in sales at (s amzn), when interest in netbooks was at a fever pitch, Apple is back at the top of the sales chart with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has been the top-selling laptop since the moment it was introduced.

Mac Users Want More

The market is apparently showing what Apple, and Steve Jobs, already knew. People want small and cheap, but they don’t want to give up power. As Mac users, we want more from our hardware, and we’re willing to pay a bit more for it. That demand prohibits Apple from selling a powerful, small, and cheap laptop.

Sure, it would be great to have a $500 MacBook. But do you really want to spend that much for a Mac that has limitations that might include a smaller keyboard, a smaller screen, a stripped-down OS, the inability to edit or even watch videos with smooth playback, or a hard drive only large enough to keep a small sampling of your iPhoto and iTunes collection on in order to save room for other documents. I sure don’t, and I suspect that I’m not alone.

Apple's MacBook Air

Apple's MacBook Air

The MacBook Air, as I stated earlier, is quite a capable little machine. The lack of numerous ports and a media drive initially struck me as absolute craziness at the highest levels at Apple. But when I look at how I use my current 15-inch MacBook Pro, I was surprised to notice how little I actually used the media drive; the Firewire and USB ports; the card slot and the ethernet port. I do most of my heavy-duty graphics work on a Mac Pro at the office, so the extent of my laptop use is light-duty graphics for the web, office and web apps, with the occasional iMovie or iPhoto work.

I suspect my laptop use is typical of most laptop users, except I paid a premium for some extra processor power that I don’t use, a slightly faster hard drive and slightly larger screen that aren’t worth the extra weight or battery use over a MacBook Air.

In fact, when I look at my usage, I really need a netbook. My next laptop will be something cheaper, smaller, lighter and just a little less powerful, but not crippled. A netbook. Most likely it will be named MacBook Air.

Note: I highly doubt Apple will ever release what most consider a netbook. But I’m fully prepared to eat my words, if I have to. After all, I didn’t expect an OS X upgrade to cost only $29, either. With Apple, you just never know what the next headline will be.


Jose A. Mari-Mutt

I upgraded from a white MacBook to the 13-inch 2.53 MacBook Pro but returned the computer a day later because I could not stand the very shiny display. I work a lot in my rocking chair during the day and the background constantly moving back and forth was just too annoying. In addition, the MBP got hotter underneath and blue skies in photographs had a rather unnatural violet tinge.

The MacBook air shares with the MBP the illuminated keyboard, aluminum unibody construction, gestures keypad and sealed battery, but has no shiny glass over the display (the display actually shines slightly less than the MacBook’s). In my opinion, the computer is also more elegant than the MBP because only the keyboard is black.

The MBA is as fast or slightly faster than the white MacBook and is, of course, much lighter. I now use it as my main computer, for netbook use I have an iPod touch.


I stopped reading at “… cripple-ware Windows XP Home …” – nice disqualification! Thought only 13-year-old fanboys have to write such crap … I was wrong.


Hmmm, I agree with the opposers. Makes no difference to me. I personally hate desktops though… But that’s just me…

James Dempsey

I like having both. My MacPro is my main work-horse computer, but I love having the ability to “take it on the road” when I have to.

Laptops have become fairly powerful the last few years, to the point where only the most demanding users actually “need” a desktop.

Christopher Anderson

I like my Mac mini with dual 24″ displays. Makes using any laptop seem like too little screen real-estate to be productive.


I have an iMac and an Acer Aspire One. What am I using the little guy for? As an e-book reader. The netbook has an extra 8MB SSD with FIVE THOUSAND pdf documents on it and room for more. Load a pdf into Acrobat Reader, flip the view sideways and select fullscreen view, and it will rival any Kindle or Sony Reader. That’s several years worth of reading.

The netbook is disposable. My e-book library is not, and it is maintained on and backed up from the iMac.

Now what someone else uses their netbook for will be completely different. But that is the whole point. It is cheap, cheerful, completely adaptable to the user’s needs and when it goes, I’ll just get a new one. If I tire of reading e-books, it may get a new life as something completely different.

How does this possibly compare to the MBA, for which I’ll have to re-mortgage the house and sell my firstborn into slavery? How does it compare to the iphone/ipod touch, which does not give me access to my own filesystem unless I go into jailbreaking territory?

The MBA is a thing of beauty, a masterpiece of design. But it is not competing with netbooks, not even close.

I’d have to agree about the weird Linux distributions that come with some netbooks. But you can wipe it off and use eeebuntu instead (which works flawlessly on the AA1, BTW).

If Apple chooses not to compete in this space, that’s fine. Their decision to make. My money went to Acer instead. Love that little blue computer.


This type of heavily biased and ignorant article makes me feel shameful to be a Mac user. You need to study netbook 101 before writing anything like this. Jkontherun’s article about the requirements for netbook will be a good start.

James Dempsey

The “requirements” for a netbook isn’t the point of this article, at least it wasn’t my intention for it to be.

The point I was trying to make was that the vast majority of Mac users (not netbook users in general) don’t want to give up power, speed, full-size keyboard and a bit larger screen & HD. Most Mac users demand a little more than the typical netbook can offer.

It’s not that a Dell (or other PC brand) netbook is bad, it’s that it’s just not the typical Mac user market. This is why Apple hasn’t released one… yet.

Apple may end-up releasing one some day, but I don’t see them releasing one in the near future just to compete with the ones out there now. There’s little profit in them, and Apple can’t dominate the market with them – so there’s little reason for them to enter the market to begin with.


Oh yeah baby, yes please, let’s spend 1500 dollars on a crippled machine…
cause it’s so pretty…


Not bad writing, however, many people including the author of the article are missing the point. The Macbook Air is NOT in competition with the netbook market, it is in competition with the ultra-portable market. If you want a small light laptop with almost as much power as a regular laptop, Sony has one with an 11.1″ screen. By the way, the Macbook Air technically isn’t in the ultra-portable market because of the size of it’s screen which is larger than the 12″ screen typically attributed to an ultra-portable.

The netbook is typically a cheap computer, though there is a decent amount of personalization through companies like Dell. If the writer wishes to complain about the size of the netbook harddrive, then he needs to issue the same complaint about the Air. True some netbooks come with small 8GB SSDs, however, there are more out there with 120GB and even 250GB HDDs. The Air comes with a 120GB HDD or a 128GB SSD.

I will admit I have a netbook. I bought it because I broke 2 ribs in a nasty fall and couldn’t carry my 15″ laptop because it put too much stress on the injury. It has been a great little laptop for taking notes, browsing the net and even watching movies or listening to music. I chose the SSD version and have run it with Ubuntu, until recently when I upgraded it to Windows 7. Obviously it won’t do everything I need a computer to do, but it is much easier to carry around campus than 4 spiral bound notebooks or even a regular laptop, and the SSD means that if my clumsiness strikes and I fall and break the netbook, my files aren’t destroyed.


We have been on the road for 10+ months over the last 1.5 years, with a netbook, MacBook Air and a MacBook. When you really want to optimize what to carry, the smaller footprint of a netbook really makes a difference.

I would happy to pay Apple-premium for an Apple-netbook running real OS X. Or in other words, Apple should make a laptop smaller than 13″.


Comparing the Air to a netbook appears to miss the point.

The Air is equivalent in my mind to a ultra-mini notebook – full power, small size/weigh trade offs.

The netbook is a small, cheap PC which allows one to browse the web, look at email, some music/videos and perhaps some MS Office documents. It is literally meant to be a cheap, DISPOSABLE computer.

The iPhone/iPod Touch meets some of the netbook need, but not all. Hence the MSI Hackinstosh mentioned above. Also, for those of us who are aging, I simply cannot DO what I want on a such a small screen.

An Ipod Touch Slate at about 4.8-5.6 inch screen would be ideal (800×480), or small macbook with a 8.9-10″ (1024×600) screen, running a Core Duo so that I have the benefit of an Intel chips and OS X 10.5. The Air is just too big and too much $$ for the purpose of a “netbook”.


Honestly I don’t see what the deal is with netbooks or the macbook air. Let’s face facts here. Besides cost there is no other benefit to owning a netbook. It’s footprint is virtually the same as a 13 inch macbook when you throw it in a backpack or a carrying case. You’re STILL lugging around something that doesn’t fit in your pocket. Apple doesn’t need a netbook, which I’ve been saying for over a year now, because the combination of an iPhone/iPod touch and a macbook is significantly better than any combination of netbook and desktop. Which is what you will need to purchase if you plan on doing anything other than basic word processing, and surfing the internet. So you spend $400 on a nice netbook, then another $1000 on a desktop. Or you can buy a new Macbook Pro, and an iPod touch for $1200. Seems like a no brainer to me.


I’m very impressed with your comments. My desktop PC is dying as we speak and I’m leaning strongly toward a Mac…but which Mac?
I consider myself to be ‘into photography’ and ‘family history research’. So, do I want the Mac Desktop with big monitor? along with the iPod Touch for portability? or do I want a 15″ MacBook Pro with the iPod Touch?

The other option would be a 15″ MacBook Pro that I can dock to a non-Apple monitor when I want to ‘see large’? HELP…need to make a decision soon. -R


(P.S.)The Macbook Pro is a much better buy. As far as capability goes, the Macbook is definitely the better steal than the Air… :)


True, the Macbook Air is more expensive, and the netbook is cheaper, but people who really and truly care about quality over quantity tend to go for the most expensive and better-looking buy, and those who can afford it, also.

You can use your iPhone as a netbook and it wouldn’t make much of a difference, except for mobility. That is, if you have the proper upgrades… But I agree with Mike. Most people look at apple and apple only (much like my mother) and don’t really take in the facts, such as: Is there anything out there better than this? Are they telling the truth or are they just marketing?
These are important questions when evaluating technology…

Thomas Traub

I need 4Gigs of memory for my virtual Winboxes, that’s why I chose the new 13″ MacBook Pro and not the Air, although the Air has one other major drawback : it does not have the new trackpad, the only trackpad I’m comfortable with.


I use my iPhone as a netbook and have no need for anything else. However, I also don’t think you can state that Ubuntu (a very popular Linux distro especially for netbooks) is obscure.

James Dempsey

What a few people leaving comments seem to miss is that for the vast majority of Mac users, anything less than the Air is unacceptable as far as speed, power, screen & keyboard size goes. You may *think* people want a netbook, but all they really want is a cheaper laptop.

Yes, there is no comparison between a $1400 Air and a $400 netbook. That argument goes both ways though.


So what? Does Apple want new users, or just continue selling to the Apple fanbase? As a later commentator noted, Acer got his money, not Apple.

Also, I strongly disagree about the utility of netbooks. I don’t own a netbook, but for >5 years my laptop was lower spec than most netbooks (and about the same size) – a Sony SRX-87 with Pentium-850 and 256MB RAM. I even did software development and used Photoshop on it.

And the netbook combination of small but usable size and performance, low cost, and long battery life does not make it just a “cheap notebook”.

If Apple doesn’t think enough of their current customer base + new customers would buy a fruity netbook, fine. But don’t claim a MBA is the solution to those who want a netbook.


You sound just like Apple in trying to excuse away the desire the public has for something that Apple simply cant compete with. Instead of saying why they wont make one, they tell you why you don’t need one. Why don’t they say that they simply arent able to charge twice the price for something by slapping a neat light up logo on it? As for your assumptions about netbooks, HP makes a 10″ model with a keyboard thats 95% full size (bogger then the 80% you claim to be the biggest), a 160gb hard drive (40gb larger than the biggest iPod which you claim netbooks don’t exceed), and it runs Vista Business (which is more powerfull then the XP Home you say all netbooks are limited too). Perhaps you should do a little more research before you continue to spew the Apple Corp excuses.



But this doesn’t mean a new type of mobile device isn’t coming from Apple….soon.


I have 1st gen Macbook Air and it’s one of the worst Apple products I’ve purchased over the last years. It works but as soon as you start to do something for real, it starts to heat and the fan kicks in. At the same time it’s slowing down. I might have upgraded to the latest model but won’t until Apple adds second USB to it. For example when travelling you want to have card reader in one and external hard drive on another. MBA is also very fragile, just had the whole cover replaced (glued to the LCD) due a bent corner.

On our recent 5-month trip I wanted to carry something more “disposable”. Acer Aspire One isn’t the best netbook out there but I was suprised how well it was able to run OS X. Unfortunately the machine died after 1.5 months on the road — or in the water, next to Antarctica. I bought a Macbook later to replace it.

After netbook w/OS X and MBA I’m waiting for just one thing — Apple to do the netbook the right way.

Adam Jackson

What’s so weird is I’ve been literally riding the fence for 12 months about this.

I love the MacBook Air. Everytime I see one it’s exciting and I’m blown away at just how small and light it is! The speed, sure it’s slow but it’s not horrible and it’s not meant to be super fast or powerful and then I look at those $499 Eee PCs with 10 inch screens and have second doubts like do I want to succumb to that kind of speed and find new apps to run or try to get OSX installed on it?

It’s just challenging and a Macbook Air always is the machine I go back to as a “netbook” the price is always too high but one of these days I’ll buy a smallbook and I sitll have no clue if it’ll be an Apple or Dell or Asus.


There is a need for a true netbook. The iPhone actually proves that. I see quite a few people surfing the web and emailing on their iPhones at Starbucks. However, many of them would like something a little bigger and more functional.

I suspect that Apple is working on one. What Apple wants to do is completely redefine that market like what they did with the iPhone and iPod. Remember there were MP3 players before the iPod, but Apple completely redefined what an MP3 player should do and took over the market. There were smart phones before the iPhone, but the iPhone completely changed the genre.

I suspect Apple will do the same for the “netbook” market. My suspicions is that it will be something between a iPhone and a MacBook. It will have a touch screen, no mouse, and a fold away keyboard. You can bring up an on screen keyboard if you’d like. There are two things holding it up: Price and Weight.

For Apple to be able to produce their “netbook”, it will have to be a high quality machine they can sell for $600 to $700. Even more important, it has to weigh substantially less than the MacBook Air which tips the scales at a mere three pounds. Battery life is also very important. It has to be able to run for at least eight hours.

This machine will mainly be used for Web cruising with applications like the iPhone has. However, there will be some iWork functionality for writing and other work. It will also synchronize with a regular Mac.


Uh. The comparison here between the MBA and netbooks is a bit moronic considering the price difference which is the one fact conveniently left out here. I realize that this is an “apple blog” and I love my apple as much as the next person, but you really don’t need to be so blatantly biased.

MBA $1400 vs Netbook ~$400.

The whole point of the netbook is to augment standard machines with one that is extremely portable, has “good enough” power to do 90% of what most people need, and at a very small cost. Considering that, comparing the MBA to a netbook makes me think that you don’t understand the concept.

Netbooks even fit into a manilla envelope if that’s what you’re in to…


“The whole point of the netbook is to augment standard machines with one that is extremely portable, has “good enough” power to do 90% of what most people need, and at a very small cost. Considering that, comparing the MBA to a netbook makes me think that you don’t understand the concept”


I’m as much of a “Mac person” as you’re likely to find; I currently have five of them in my office, four at home (including three laptops), and I advocate for the platform as much as possible. Macs run my business, and I can’t imagine my life without them.

Having said that, I recently bought a netbook for general family use, and I love it for on-the-go computing. In fact, I liked it so much, I bought two more for myself and my daughter this weekend. For $250 on sale at Target, they were a no-brainer, and only the blindest partisan could fail to see that.

Mark Crump

While I always have my Macbook with me, I am finding my iPhone takes the place of what I’d use a netbook for.

I’ve looked at them, but the iPhone being able to e-mail, tweet, newsread over AT&T, plus using QuickDocs as a word processer, I find I’m very productive that way.

Jason Harris

This is a much better argument then the extremely flawed argument the original article tries to make. There is no universe where a $1500 laptop is a competitor to 300-500 laptops.

The iPhone for a lot of users I think could replace what they’d use a netbook for, and it’s logical to think that Apple will keep pushing the iPhone as their competitor in the segment.

Apple basically portrays themselves as a premium/image brand, and that’s probably why they’re staying out of the NetBook market. You don’t see Mercedes Benz competing with the Corolla, and that’s because MB owners like that their cars are somewhat exclusive. People like to whip out their glowing white Apple logo-ed beauties to show off that they have a fancier, better computer than the next guy. It shows in most forum threads about this topic as well, it’s a somewhat elitist and status oriented group, the same as you’d run into with luxury car enthusiasts. People who are passionate about the make and like it being exclusive.

That said, there is merit to the idea that Apple will do something unusual in the segment. Something between the iPhone and a full PC, for example…a larger screened iPhone tablet or something isn’t completely unreasonable.

But it seems plenty of Apple users are happy to keep Apple as a nitch brand that carries a status with it. It’s curious whether Apple will mirror that mindset, or look into expanding into bigger and better markets.

Mark Crump


If the MBA had a 500gb drive, I’d actually think of getting one. There’s times when having a light, MacBook-footprint laptop would be great.

My ’06 WhiteBook needs an update, and I gave the Air a ton of thought. But the 1 usb/small hard drive is too much of a sacrifice for me. There’s a few spots at the house and at work I need a wired connection and losing the one USB port to that would be a killer.

But, as I said (and you agreed with), my iPhone does quite well in that.

Today, I was in a doctor’s office and saw a book in a magazine I want to get. Rather than jot the name down, I just took a pic with the iPhone, and when I got in the car used the Amazon app to add it to my wish-list.


Apple is wrong, soooo wrong for not putting out a netbook. I just loaded OS X 10.5.5 on my MSI Wind (Yes, it’s a Hackintosh) and I LOVE IT. In Fact, I love it so much that my next purchase will be a Macbook Pro.. I’m a windows guy (and honestly Windows 7 is AWESOME too) and would have NEVER have given Mac a chance, but now that I’ve had time to play with the OS I am willing to spend the extra $$$ on the Mac hardware. Although I will probably wait until the end of year and will dual boot with Windows 7 Ultimate.

Apple could use cheap netbooks to increase their position in the windows market.. Why not? They sell the Mac mini for almost no profit? I’m sure plenty of Mac mini users upgrade to iMac’s relatively quickly? I bet the same thing would happen in the netbook segment. It’s the free drugs theory, when they’re hooked, then you make them pay…

Just my two cents… Anything to put OS X into the hands of someone that wouldn’t normally go there is a good thing, even if they have to sacrifice a few dollars (or lower than normal profit margins) getting there…


My opinion is a little bit different on this Hackintosh thing. I own a MSI Wind running OS X 10.5.7 but I must say it doesn’t taste like a real Mac.

In fact, I think my opinion is different because I’m a Mac User and don’t discover OS X on a hackintosh, but OS X is far more better than what you are actually experiencing. It’s far more comfortable and usable.

I must admit I was pretty impressed by perfs since I managed to do way more than I imagined : edit a movie with iMovie, use GarageBand as a 4-track recorder, edit pictures, run Kinemac, etc. But at the end of the journey, there was something wrong…

Owning a Hackintosh and a Macintosh allowed me to see that Mac was not only OS X, it was also hardware. In fact, when Macusers tell you Mac = a combo of hardware and software, people usually laugh. I personally thought they were a little bit mistaken and that they overconsidered the hardware side of Mac. To be honest, I was insanely wrong.

A hackintoshed netbook as nothing to do with Mac. It gives you only a little part of what Mac is. Those netbooks are cheap and that’s for sure. So I guess if you love your hackintosh, you’re a Mac fanboy and you don’t know it yet. I’m quite sure you wouldn’t believe your eyes if you used a real Mac daily…

That being said, I wonder if the netbook market is not already dead. They now turn to 11″ computers and tablets ( especially Archos ). Problem is people see netbooks as sub-notebooks because manufacturers release sub-notebooks netbooks. Moreover they all do the same hardware : N270 Atom, 160GB HDD, 1GB RAM, Windows XP…

Thus I think it’s not Apple’s strategy to release such a thing. Why would they build a netbook while surveys shows people are disappointed ? Why would they release something which means cheapness ? Yhey have to release something else. Let’s say if Archos 9 tablet ships with Windows Seven and that Archos guys don’t optimize Seven for the touchscreen, it woudl be a good idea to release a MacTablet with a dedicated OS X. Then Archos tablet will be seen as utter crap and Apple stuff could be seen as innovative, revolutionary and different.


The netbooks i have seen honestly are not worth buying considering the advancements on computers these days a netbook are practically being outdated the day you buy them. Also think about what a netbook in for, quick portable small task computing. You are not running major programs here people. Macbook air is a nice computer but lacks things that a netbook have like a cd drive and multiple usb ports. I think these few things are critical for on the go business computing but if people are just buying them because they are cheap you would be better off getting a PSP.

Thomas Maier

It is SO simple: They would have to design a new operating system. A Mac OS X Light – or a iPhone OS Extended. No way. End of story. :)

Jason Harris

the problem with the Air is that it has all of the disadvantages of a netbook, yet costs significantly more than even a normal MacBook.

Honestly I’m pretty shocked that ANYONE would shell out so much money for what amounts to just a mildly thinner computer. But I suppose it looks really neat when you open it up at Starbucks.


Why does everyone hate on popular companies? Who wants to open an Acer netbook while drinking over-bitter coffee at McDonald’s? Coooool.


We’re not “hating on” anyone. Those of us who have managed to break free from the sheep mentality know that the coffee at McDonald’s is better than Starbucks at 1/3 the cost. We also know that Acer/Asus/HP/Dell/MSI netbooks are more functional and 1/2 the price of a MacBook which is nice to look at.


I have an MBA, and I’ve used the stand-alone optical drive just once to upgrade iLife. Plan to use it again in September to upgrade to Snow Leopard. Otherwise I wouldn’t need one – since borrowing a drive over a wi-fi connection is annoyingly slow.


This actually makes perfect sense. Having just spent several weeks traveling with both my iphone and my MBP, the one thing I kept wishing for as I either squinted to see the screen of the iphone, or cursed the weight of the MBP, was not something that was less powerful or capable, it was something that was bigger and more usable than an iphone and lighter than a MB or MBP. The MBA seems to fit this perfectly.

Now, how to justify buying one with nary a travel plan on the horizon…

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