Macworld 2008 thin as air

Hi, I’ve read the writeups on Steve’s keynote this year, and listened to some podcasts of people who were in the audience. Personally I’m a bit dissapointed by the features introduced at this Macworld. Surely it’s hard to live up to the ever rising expectations every year, but I do have some comments to make on the introduced products.

TimeCapsule

This is the worst product Apple has introduced in years. Not that it’s crappy hardware or a lousy idea, but the way they are artificially forcing you to buy their $299 500GB harddrive (0r $499 for the 1TB version) in stead of the 100’s of readily available, $150 to $200 cheap ethernet connected harddrives out there which would perfectly perform this task.

Quick tip: Should you have an Ethernet connected FAT32 drive on which you want timemachine to run, create a sparse disk image on that disk (no need to commandline, can also be done with the disk utility). A sparse disk image is effectively a DMG file in 8MB chunks. You can mount that DMG file and have a network connected (strong encrypted if you like), HFS+ journalled drive. After the Timemachine network trick, you’re probably good to go at no cost at all. The only difference is that you can’t connect your printer to that drive. Well I have my Airport extreme for that, which also streams audio to my stereo.

Macbook air

Very cool looking laptop with lots of potential for journalists and the occasional life blogger, but I have some doubts about the intended audience. The most obvious is the lack of a CD/DVD drive. This is not a big problem for most users, and with the added tools to connect to any DVD drive on a remote Windows or Apple machine it will not be as big as a problem as one would think. For my wife this is a no-go, she watches DVD’s on her laptop, so she’s not getting this Macbook air anytime soon.

My next problem is the configuration options. The cheap model is a 1.3GHz machine, 2GB memory and 80GB Harddrive. It is priced at $1799, which is pretty steep compared to a normal Macbook. For $700 less, you can get a 2.0GHz macbook with a combo drive, which is much nicer in my opinion. Should you want the Macbook air and have a heftier processor, you’re in for a surprise. The 1.8GHz model (still not as fast as the cheapest macbook) is priced at a staggering $3098! This is not because of the processor, but it contains a 64GB flash-based harddrive. Less storage space, but more battery life and crash-resistance.

The problem with the 1.8GHz model of the Macbook air is that you effectively get a smaller harddrive, a marginally better processor, for $3098. Compared to that, for $2799, you can get the 17″ Macbook pro at 2.4 GHz, with a superdrive. I know what I would get. Additionaly, the 64GB flash-based drive has a limited amount of write-cycles. This means that the solid state drive will probably wear out faster than any cheap traditional HD in the market. Based on the write cycles, a normal HD will likely last 5 times longer than a flash-based disk under the same circumstances.

If you need a really thin laptop with good battery life for simple word processing, or simply something to match your gucci wardrobe and your perfect figure, get the Macbook air. If you need anything marginally better, go for the normal macbook, which is still in my opinion the best value for money and a darn cool, acceptably thin and very portable laptop.

For me, the Macbook air is a no-go even if it was priced at $1000. Why? IT HAS NO ETHERNET!What were they thinking? Many companies have wired-only policies because of security and troughput reasons. This means you can’t take your Macbook air to the office for the occasional showing off. It’s helpless in a wired-only environment. No DVD, and no means of connecting to the network?

If the Macbook air becomes a succes, Apple is clearly into some voodoo-market-magic because I don’t get it. It also doesn’t have Audio in, to put off the mobile podcasters or radio journalists out there.

Apple TV

The “all new” software for the Apple TV is very cool for people who already own an Apple TV. It looks like a big improvement, and not needing a PC or Mac is a step in the right direction. No need to explain “syncing” or “connecting” to newcommers, just plug and play. Nice.

The missing thing here is that they could have chosen to make the Apple TV the TimeCapsule. It has a harddrive, USB ports, and wifi. Why do I need another machine with anothe power brick if I have a harddisk onderneath my TV which is doing nothing 80% of it’s time? Selling a 1TB Apple TV with a smart disk usage policy would make much more sense to me. As an added benefit, people who are looking for a backup solution get sucked into the “Movie Rentals” scheme on the go.

One missing thing:

The iPhone. It was mentioned, but still I was expecting 2 major announcements. The first, and most obvious announcement would be a 16 or 32 GB model. This was anticipated to happen for over a year now, but it didn’t. I think it’s not that big of a deal because I have a 8GB nano and it stores more than enough music to listen to in between syncs. Just use really smart playlists and iTunes will take care of it for you.

The second thing I missed was the introduction of the iPhone in more European countries. Hello Apple, Europe doesn’t consist of Great Brittain, France and Germany alone! Over here in the Netherlands, a lot of people have hacked grey import iPhones because they are dying to buy one, but can’t get it legally. Maybe Apple thinks it’s done beccause they reached their targets, but I think they are missing out on a big market of wealthy (west-) European consumers easily wanting to pay for the legal version of the iPhone, no matter which provider.

To top that, the free software update for the iPhone will cost $20 dollars for iPod touch owners, while new iPod touch’s will have that included for free. I wonder what “marketing genius” is behind that. It almost looks like Steve has been on a year’s vacation, leaving business to somebody else.

I just noticed that the complete video of the keynote is online at http://www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/keynote/. Have fun!

Edit:  I see that there is an USB Ethernet adapter and an external DVD drive available as options to the Macbook air. But still, I think the ethernet port should be in there, I don’t want to have to carry all kinds of adapters with my Macbook.

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