But when I look closer, I notice it has no ethernet port. Then I notice you can't change its battery. And then I see it has no optical disc drive.
OK, maybe it was made for the home user with a serious addiction to Apple products. This is an individual who has access to an optical disc on an iMac, is probably interested in a laptop that can access the internet wirelessly, and is not likely to be far from a power source for an extended period of time. Maybe Apple was figuring this person would be a great candidate for the MacBook Air...
. . . Were it not for the fact that for $700 less, the MacBook is a better overall value with a 13 inch screen, a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB memory (expandable to 4GB), a 80GB hard drive, a Combo optical drive and built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11n) and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR.
By comparison, the MacBook Air has a 13 inch screen, a 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB memory (maximum), a 80GB 4200-rpm PATA hard drive, built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
OK, let's look at it another way. Let's say Apple is targeting the business user with this product. If you're a business user, even one in an industry that uses Apple products, you are likely to encounter all of the following on a regular basis:
1. The need to connect to the web in places that don't have wireless
2. The need to access an optical drive on a moment's notice
3. The need to change a battery when you don't have access to a power supply
In light of the availability of the MacBook Pro that has none of these shortcomings, is the average corporate buyer going to authorize the purchase of a MacBook Air that has all of these shortcomings?
In short, the MacBook Air is beautiful, but impractical - and I think that's OK.
Because the purpose of the MacBook Air is to exist, not to sell.
By demonstrating the ability to get component vendors to miniaturize components, the ability to make bold decisions on peripherals and connectivity, and by declaring that batteries are integral to laptops, Apple is showing us where they plan to go. They are demonstrating the will to execute on a product roadmap, even if the first expression of that roadmap falls short.
Ross Rubin, an analyst at NPD, "doesn't think Apple is using the MacBook Air as a sideways entry into the corporate market; he notes there have been no such channel or distribution announcements to support that sort of move." (source)
Ross is right. Apple is using the MacBook Air to demonstrate leadership. The MacBook Air is not a Power Mac G4 Cube. It is the first entrant in what I think will be a new category of full-function computing device - wireless, integrated and super-portable.
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor (1925 - 1964)
Update 1 - There is a terrific post over at Gizmodo referencing some comments by Sony regarding the MacBook Air (MBA). In the post the author references a comment by Steve Jobs, who replied to a question relating to the MBA's storage with "Maybe this isn't the computer for you."
That is a very telling comment by the Apple CEO. If you take issue with the small storage, fixed 2GB memory, lack of optical drive, ethernet connection or removable drive, the MBA is not the computer for you. It will be interesting to see just how large of a population has those issues.