The MacBook Air Succeeds as Apple’s Post-PC PC

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Apple’s redesigned MacBook Air is selling very well, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via mlm,k), having reached 1.1 million units shipped in its first quarter of availability. That would make the new MacBook Air one of the most successful Mac launches of all time. But don’t think that just because Apple’s newest PC is succeeding, its post-PC rhetoric is mere iPad 2 marketing babble.

The MacBook Air may not be a tablet or a smartphone, but it might actually be more post-PC than any of these other devices, including the iPad. Plus, it stands as the best possible bridge available to help make the transition from PC to post-PC as painless as possible.

Obviously, the MacBook Air has lots of PC in its family tree. It’s a traditional clamshell notebook with a full hardware keyboard that runs OS X. On the other hand, though, it uses all-flash storage, has no built-in optical drive and the vast majority of its hardware design details were dictated by the need for portability, instant on, and battery life. Often, the MacBook Air capably stands in for or excels at tasks for which one might otherwise use a tablet. Colleague Kevin Tofel, for instance, found he was getting less use out of his iPad once he purchased a MacBook Air due to fast boot and wake times as well as the device’s light weight.

Consider also Jobs’ own characterization of how to approach computing in the post-PC era:

[A] lot of folks in this tablet market are rushing in and they’re looking at this as the next PC. The hardware and the software are done by different companies. And they’re talking about speeds and feeds just like they did with PCs.

The MacBook Air raised some concern that it might be underpowered when people looked at its stats on paper. After all, it didn’t benefit from any new processor technology. But, as with the iPad, the numbers didn’t tell the whole story. I’d say the most common thing I heard from MacBook Air-owning friends and colleagues was that they were surprised at how closely their computing experience resembled the one they’d previously had on more powerful MacBooks. Kevin agrees, having sold a unibody MacBook for the MacBook Air and feeling that he made little, if any, performance compromises in the process.

As with the iPad, the MacBook Air is less about what it’s made up of and more about what you can do with it. That, combined with pricing that seems to have struck a chord with buyers, and put the Air on top of the Mac line in terms of units shipped. Apple sold a total of 2.9 million notebooks last quarter, so the Air took the lion’s share, accounting for 38 percent of that volume. Apple has to be pleased with those numbers, since it means its overall mobile focus really is where consumers are thinking and spending their money.

The MacBook Air is a personal computer, but according to Jobs’ articulation of what constitutes a post-PC device, it fits in much more comfortably with the iPad and the iPhone. If it continues to gain traction among consumers, don’t be surprised if it comes to represent everything the Mac brand stands for. Not a bad vision of the future, if you ask me.

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