Apple is one of those companies that always tries to push for new technologies in hopes of seeing them become standard.
That’s not to say that Apple invents those technologies, but they certainly like to adopt technologies they see as as up-and-coming. Sometimes it works. Right now, Apple is aiming for a handful of ideas that have yet to become standard in computers, and Uncle Steve said it himself, “We think all notebooks are going to be like this someday.” When he said that, he was of course referring to the MacBook Air. Let’s assume Stevie P. is right, what are some of the forward-looking design choices that were made before all notebooks became like the MacBook Air?
5) Goodbye Optical Drives
Optical drives are already somewhat a thing of the past. We actually can’t remember the last time we used an optical drive. It’s there, but there has been very little need for it, if any. We’ve all moved to other forms of saving and transferring our work such as cloud-based storage and USB flash drives. The larger MacBook Air makes use of an SD card slot as well. Rather than having to worry about a software reinstall disc, Apple has packed in a small USB stick called the “Software Reinstall Drive.” Which is pictured below:
4) Farewell Spinning Harddrives! Hello Flash-based Storage…
Spinning harddrives are slower, and clunkier than what is available now. The data can become corrupt very easily, and with tiny moving parts, there is always the risk of something going wrong. Remember what happened if you jogged too much with that old iPod? It was possible for it to skip, and every so often you would hear the drive inside spin as some of the data was committed to memory for the anti-skip mechanism. It didn’t always help though. When iPods started using flash-based storage, skipping was no longer an issue.
Flash-based storage is much more portable, which makes it a great choice for laptops. It’s faster than a spinning drive, and it’s also much more durable if dropped. Accidents happen, and laptops get dropped. Dropping a laptop equipped with a traditional harddrive could spell disaster for your data. Flash storage may be better protected when this happens. It’s a reasonable design choice for a laptop.
3) FaceTime is the New Way to Chat
Apple is going full-force with FaceTime. They introduced it with the iPhone 4, it became part of the iPod Touch and now it’s on the Mac. All that’s left is the iPad. The FaceTime branding is becoming such an important push for Apple that they have gone so far as to rebrand their iSight cameras as FaceTime cameras. At this point, all of their computers come with an iSigh–uh, FaceTime camera built-in (The Mac Mini is an exception, but it doesn’t come with a display). Also worth noting is that there is less and less emphasis on their traditional chat clients such as iChat. It’s become more about unifying a user experience across various devices. Now you can call your friend on their iPhone while on your Mac, or call your friend’s Mac with your iPhone or iPod Touch. The contact list is the same, so you don’t necessarily need to get every bit of someone’s contact information to talk to them on different machines.
2) Easy Software Purchases
The App Store has changed the way we shop for content. This is the case on the iPhone and on the iPad. We have one central location to pick up a variety of useful applications. In the past, you’d probably Google “photo resize for OS X” and try to find something that worked or was free, and this was partly because you didn’t know who you were buying from. Now, it may all be available on the App Store. We understand that some users may not like this, but the internet still exists as it is and those applications will always be downloadable. However, more casual users, say Mom and Dad, can easily head over to the App Store and find a simple application that will suit their needs. They don’t mind paying a bit, and they feel safe buying it from a source they trust, the App Store.
1) Instant On
The new Air is ready to go when you are. (Wow, that totally sounded like PR speak…shoot me) Lame PR pitches aside, the truth is that it’s convenient to have a laptop around that you simply open to use. It’s what makes our smartphones and iPads and sleepmode so useful. It’s a pain to wait for any device to startup, especially when you are traveling and just need to use your laptop at an airport or rest area. The iPad became perfect for that, because it was always on, but in standby mode. The MacBook Air will be similar in this respect.
The Future of Notebooks
We can’t know what the future holds for any of our portable devices. Even devices like the iPad may have seemed a little hard to swallow when they came. It took holding it in our hands while kicking back on the recliner to really see it for what it was. Some of these other features may need for consumers to use them in a real-world scenario to truly enjoy them for what they are.
We hope to see at least a few of these ideas become part of future notebooks, both PC and Mac.