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Wednesday, 16 January 2008 08:52

Goldilocks and the three notebooks

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No matter what design a computer company comes up with, there's always someone ready to find fault with it. It all reminds me of Goldilocks.

For my money, the MacBook Air is sized "just right."

I want - no, I demand - a full-sized keyboard. And once you've factored that into the design, there's no reason for a display any smaller than 13in.

If you're carrying a notebook around, you're going to put it in a bag. Saving an inch here or there in width or depth makes no difference, as a 13in model will fit in a briefcase, backpack or satchel.

What is important is the thickness and weight, as those factors determine how much else you can fit into the bag. The MacBook Air shaves 40 percent off the MacBook's weight and about a third off the thickness, so it wins out on both categories.

For those who say the MacBook Air is too big, my reply is that there might be room in your life for an Internet access device that's small enough to fit in your pocket so you can use it anywhere, but Apple's already got the iPod touch and iPhone to cater for that market. If you've got an ideological problem with Apple, try Nokia.

But if it won't go in your pocket, it isn't truly portable.

Suggestions that the initial success of the Eee PC shows Apple should have made the MacBook Air smaller are misplaced - the Eee's popularity is due to the low price as much as anything else. One thing we know is that Apple doesn't compete in the bargain basement category.

If you think the MacBook Air is too small, simply go for a MacBook instead - 15 or 17in displays, built-in optical drive, more processing power, more ports. And more expensive, of course.

There are any number of designs Apple could have produced. Tablets have their fans, for example, but the category has never really taken off except for specialised, forms-oriented applications (eg in healthcare and logistics). You need a keyboard for general purpose computing, and that means a tablet for the mass market needs to be a convertible. So why bother making it a tablet if all you end up with is a slim and light notebook?

While I think there is a place for a lounge room tablet for looking up information relating to the programs or movies you're watching on the TV, catching up with email, VoIP, IM and maybe acting as a control panel for your network and any home automation system, that's a much smaller market.

When Goldilocks tried out the Three Bears' beds, one was too hard, one was too soft, but the other was just right. Yet we didn't hear Mummy Bear or Daddy Bear complaining, did we? Well, only that "someone's been sleeping in my bed!"

Just because a product isn't right for you, that doesn't mean the company was wrong to introduce it.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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