I’m typing this article on a MacBook Air. It’s the best notebook I’ve ever owned, and it’s a notebook that is severely underappreciated by anyone that doesn’t own one. Anyone reading this on an Air knows that it’s truly the lightest, full-featured notebook available and an absolute pleasure to type on for hours due to the exceptionally thin front lip and bouncy keys coupled with a super wide trackpad in a body that’s just over three pounds. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air has a bad reputation.
Anyone who hasn’t owned one simply doesn’t understand. They see a speed that tops out at 2.13Ghz, and an SSD at only 128GB of storage, and that’s before they nearly faint when finding out it has only 2GB of RAM and a single USB port. The next question is always, “How do I burn CDs?”
Back in the 90s, Apple had a program where it would give you one of its computers risk fee for around 30 days as long as you provided your credit card number (in case you don’t send it back). It was a genius program, because many people who’d heard Macs were terrible would try one and be hooked after only a few days. The same might have happened to the iPad if Apple hadn’t marketed the heck out of it leading up to release day. People knew it would be amazing, but the general consensus was, “What do I do with it?” That’s where the MacBook Air sits today. It’s a machine that most people want but simply don’t know where it fits into their workflow.
I’ve been a Mac user since early 2000, and back then, when working from a café or library, everyone would stop by my tangerine iBook and ask, “Are Macs really worth it?” After the success of the iPod and the Intel switch, people stopped asking, because many people were already Mac users. They already had one in their bag. The sale was made.
That didn’t start happening to me again until late 2009, when I purchased a MacBook Air. I was skeptical, but I had a 17” MacBook Pro at my desk and thought if I didn’t like the Air, I could send it back within two weeks. Two weeks later, I sold the 17” MacBook Pro and bought an iMac. Today, when I sit at a café, that same coolness of owning a Mac back in 2000 takes people over when they see the Air. Their first question, “Is it worth it?” Yes. Yes it is.
People at Apple know this. I know employees that are designers, product managers and retail workers at Apple who all tell me that they love the Air and that it’s the most underappreciated machine in the notebook lineup. If Apple knows it, why doesn’t it do something about it?
There’s a trend at Apple that I see repeatedly. The machine with the lowest sales remains stagnant until Apple gets around to fixing it up. The Mac mini was plagued with this problem, and sat dormant from a design perspective from 2005 to 2010. The Mac Pro has far worse sales than the mini, and it sees a minor speed bump once every 18 months, but if you own a PowerMac G5 manufactured in 2004 and sit it beside a Mac Pro that just arrived from Apple yesterday, they look strikingly similar. Just compare a PowerBook from 2003 to a MacBook Pro today and you’ll see where Apple spends most of its time innovating.
The MacBook Air’s design has remained unchanged since it was introduced in January 2008, when the SSD model cost close to $3,000. Apple continued dropping the price and enhancing the features, to where today’s high-end model can be had for just over $2,000 and can handle most everyday tasks. If a laptop is your only computer and you do any digital media creation, the Air isn’t for you. If you have a desktop computer and occasionally fly across country only working on spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents or watching movies, the Air is going to be your new best friend. I’m not a designer, and I’m not a digital magician. I’m just a guy that writes, emails, reads news and watches YouTube videos, and for that, the MacBook Air is the best machine money can buy.
I’m not going to speculate what the next Macbook Air should have. I’m only here to make a case that anyone that hasn’t used one should give it a shot and that Apple needs to throw some marketing dollars behind it so everyone else knows what we MacBook air owners have known for a long time: It’s the best notebook Apple makes and it also happens to be the smallest. It’s a machine for 75 percent of the portable Mac users out there, and too many people are buying more than they need when the MacBook Air fits in just nicely.