So the new MacBook Air has ridiculously long battery life. It truly represents a breakthrough in laptop computing. But when compared to the battery life of an iPad, it’s only catching up to 2010. The iPad achieved amazing battery life right out of the gate due in part to low power chips and a limited operating system. While the MacBook Air’s epic battery life represents a breakthrough for laptops, it’s the combination of battery life, processor, and operating system that represents the future of the iPad.
I’m certain that the future of computing will look very similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro. A laptop/tablet hybrid. Some say that Apple is religiously opposed to such a device, however, that’s not true. Apple is opposed to the current hybrid devices because they don’t excel at either being a laptop or a tablet. But the new MacBook Air is one step closer to a true “best of both worlds” scenario.
Imagine a touchscreen MacBook Air roughly the size of an iPad. Instead of a smart cover, you have an aluminum cover with a MacBook Air keyboard and trackpad. When it’s being used with the keyboard, it runs OS X. When the keyboard is gone, it’s an iPad. No compromises. Really. This wasn’t possible before because putting OS X on a tablet probably resulted in abysmal battery life, something Apple has never taken lightly. Now, however, you can get 10-14 hours of battery life from a real computer running OS X. It’s much less difficult to imagine running iOS on a MacBook Air than running OS X on an iPad.
Are we there yet? No. The MacBook Air needs to get thinner and the power to support a retina display without comprising battery life or performance. Further, OS X needs redesigned for a touchscreen. It doesn’t look like that is happening with Mavericks. Are we close? I’d say give it two years, tops.
A very helpful Apple salesperson saved me $750 and here’s how he did it. I’ve had a 15” MBP for a couple of years now, but it is just too big to use when traveling. I’ve been patiently waiting for new Haswell MacBooks, whether Air or Pro, for quite a while now, looking forward to a smaller machine with better battery life. When Apple announced the new MacBook Air at WWDC, I knew it was time for an upgrade. After a couple trips to the Apple Store, I decided that the 11” MacBook Air was for me.
I never buy the base model of anything, probably because I think that I’m some super geek that needs massive amounts of processing power and memory. Plus, Apple’s scheme makes it so easy to upgrade. Only $100 for double the RAM, $150 for the faster processor, and if you’re doing that, you might as well max out the SSD as well. It didn’t take me long to decide on the $1,749 11” MacBook Air Ultimate, primarily because I wanted the 512GB SSD for my rather large iPhoto library.
I walked over to my neighborhood Apple Store and found a salesperson to help. “I’m looking for a new MacBook Air. I’ll take the 11” model with all the options, please,” I said. Most salespeople would have thought, “Bingo!,” and proceeded to upsell me on AppleCare. Instead, this guy asked me why I needed the i7 processor and 512GB SSD. I explained that 512GB would be necessary because I have a large iPhoto library and I figured the other upgrades wouldn’t hurt either. He asked what applications I use most and I replied, “Chrome, Twitterrific, Word, Messages, and Mail.” He explained that I’d most likely never notice an upgrade to the i7 processor, likewise with the 8GB of RAM, and that he had a much cheaper option for my photos. He grabbed a $80 500GB external drive and showed me how to transfer my existing iPhoto library to it and set it up on the new MacBook Air.
As one of my friends put it, he must have been a great salesman, because convincing me to downgrade is probably harder than convincing most people to upgrade. But it worked. I walked out with a $999 base model 11” MacBook Air, and I love it. I’ve been working on it for a couple days and it’s super fast. With my photos all on the external drive, I have almost 100GB of free space. Most salespeople would have sold the more expensive computer, but this guy took the time to explain why I didn’t really need it, and convinced me to spend much less. Apple recognizes what few other retailers do: customer satisfaction starts even before a product is purchased, and it is customer satisfaction that makes companies great.
Much has been said about the failures of Windows 8 as a desktop, laptop, and tablet OS. According to many, Windows 8 is confusing, frustrating, and even stressful to use. I disagree.1 In my opinion, Windows 8 makes a better tablet than the iPad.
Rene Ritchie wrote a post yesterday, which claims that Microsoft has failed to understand what people want in a tablet. At least for me, it looks like Ritchie fails to understand what I want in a tablet because I love the Surface Pro.2 Ritchie’s post sums up the opinions I have seen in the Apple community, so I’ll use it to express my contrary opinion.
Ritchie describes Microsoft’s latest ads:
The ad shows Live Tiles, and contrasts them with the iPad’s static Home screen. It shows multi-window computing, and contrasts it with the iPad’s one-at-a-time app experience. It shows Power Point, and contrasts it with Apple’s Keynote. They show the price of the cheapest Windows 8 tablet and contrast it with Apple’s mid-capacity, full-sized iPad.
To mainstream customers, tiles that change pictures seemingly at random are disorienting, multiple apps at once is stressful, Power Point is something best left locked in beige cubicles (even though Microsoft could make it, and all of Office, available for iPad any time they so choose), and the price paid up-front isn’t always as important as the value obtained throughout the life of a product.
First, let’s talk about Live Tiles. I’m not sure who Ritchie considers to be a “mainstream customer,” but he seems to think they are absolute morons. Live Tiles are a fantastic feature. Checking the weather is a perfect example. On a Windows 8 tablet, you simply glance at the Live Tile for your weather app. On an iPad, you have to actually open the application and wait for it to load to see the weather. Or take Twitter. Your latest mention is displayed right on the Live Tile. No need to open the application every time you get a notification. Live Tiles are absolutely convenient. The iPad’s lock and home screens look childish by comparison.
Second, let’s consider how stressful it is to support multi-window computing. Two applications. Open at the same time. On the same screen. I NEED A DRINK. To the contrary, one of the most frustrating experiences on the iPad is the lack of multitasking and multiple windows. Windows 8 allows you to snap two windows side-by-side, which works extremely well. For example, your Twitter feed can be open while you browse the web. Your email can be open off to the side while you are reading a document. It’s an optional feature that comes in quite handy, and the lack thereof is frequently cited as one of the iPad’s biggest flaws.
Third, let’s discuss Office. The fact of the matter is, like it or not, a significant number of people rely on Office daily. Whether for a job or school, it’s how many people do their work. Natively supporting full versions of Office is a huge selling point, sometimes the primary one, for Windows 8 devices. Not everyone can write a blog for a living, which is probably quite manageable on an iPad. Many people have jobs or school assignments that require preparing presentations, complex documents, and spreadsheets. While Apple has done an admirable job of supplying iPad versions of their productivity suite, you can’t get real work done on an iPad. Believe me, I’ve tried. The lack of a mouse, multitasking/multiple windows, and native Office apps means that it takes exponentially more time to get the job done on an iPad, if you can do it at all.
I almost tucked Ritchie’s post away for another day because I would like to compare it to his review of a future iPad. What will Ritchie think of an iPad that supports a rich, data-filled home or lock screen? Disorienting? How about an iPad that supports multiple windows? Stressful? I think not. When these feature exist on an iPad, and they will, Ritchie is going to love them. And I’ll love reminding you of his post.
For some context to my opinion, I have exclusively used Macs for over a decade. I’ve owned every iPhone and every iPad except for the current iPad 4 (I have an iPad mini instead). I love Apple and its products. My newest tablet is a Microsoft Surface Pro with Windows 8. I love it too. ↩
It’s important to point out that everyone has different needs. Sure, there are some people who need nothing more than an iPad. But for many others, the iPad really is just a big iPhone, and they need a real PC of some kind. If you prefer Macs, which I do, and like tablets, that means carrying around an iPad and a PC. The beauty of Windows 8 is that it supports tablets and PCs in the same device. ↩