So, remind me again why we want an ultra portable? - Macenstein

So, remind me again why we want an ultra portable?

With Macworld just ’round the corner, the rumor mill has pegged an ultra-portable Mac as a near certainty. Usually, once 3 or more semi-reliable Mac rumor sites say we’re going to see something at Macworld, odds are we’re going to. The problem is, the ultra portable Mac, in ANY of the iterations I’ve heard thrown about, is the last thing I want to see Apple release. For some reason I am just missing the allure of a wafer thin MacBook, and I would like someone out there to set me straight. What am I missing here?

It’s a MacBook, not a Macbook Pro

First, faithful Macenstein reader Jonro and I were iChatting about the ultra portable, and he said he might get an ultra portable Macbook Pro if Apple announces one. I told Jonro, while Apple may very well release an ultra portable, I don’t see it being a MBP – it would have to be a MacBook. My reasoning is this: First, if you make a MacBook Pro any thinner than it is, I don’t see how it can possibly have a “professional” graphics card. It will have to be some sort of embedded chipset. Second, all reports say this ultra portable will likely do away with standard hard drives in favor of flash drives. This is great for weight and battery issues, but not for storage capacity. What pro user would want a 64 GB hard drive? (Or a 12-inch (or smaller) screen for that matter? I would assume anyone attempting to use such a device would have to become pretty familiar with “spaces” in a hurry).

But let’s assume I am wrong about both of those things (as surely I am). I am sure some reader out there knows of a 250 GB flash drive that they think Apple has gotten a $100 deal on, and maybe there is a wafer thin, power-friendly graphics card I haven’t heard of yet either. But even if Apple CAN make a MBP that is say, 2-3 lbs lighter, with no optical drive, and a smaller screen, why do I want this?


Is my 5 lb MacBook too heavy to carry? Would a 2 lb computer suddenly relieve the massive back strain it is causing? Wouldn’t I still buy a laptop bag for this ultraportable? Once you put something like this in a bag with a strap who cares if it’s 2 lbs or 5 lbs? Carrying it becomes a non-issue. And I would wager you would need to protect something that thin from an accidental drop, as it will likely be a bit more prone to “bend” issues in a fall. Odds are a case/bag is a must have. And the same goes for size. Is my 13-inch MacBook so wide that a 2 or 3-inch shorter laptop is going to make it that much easier to carry? Shrink it too much, and the keyboard will be a joke.


OK, an ultraportable could definitely have a much longer battery life for those people who fly across country every day on a plane, or perhaps for students with back-to-back lectures where they need to type. But what about the rest of us? Is the trade off in screen size, lack of an optical drive, and storage worth not having to charge it as often? For some people, yes, I can see how this might be a hassle, but somehow currently 100% of portable Mac users seem to have found a way to get by. How about buying a second battery?

That crazy dock thing

If Apple releases that crazy MacBook/Mac Touch thing that slips into an iMac dock I’ll eat my hat, and any other hat you can supply me with. That is the most bizarre idea I have ever seen. What is the allure of taking your laptop, sliding it into an expensive monitor-with-a-hole in it, and then just using a regular keyboard and mouse? For $45 you can do that now. Or why not just buy a monitor and hook it to your laptop?

Using this dock thing doesn’t make your laptop into a desktop, it makes your laptop into a laptop hooked to a screen via a dock instead of a cable. You still have a laptop’s CPU, and presumably hard drive and graphics card. And how much would that monstrosity cost? Would the dock be bundled with the ultra portable? In theory it would essentially cost the same as an iMac, minus the cost of the processor.

The totally touch screen Ultraportable

Please don’t get me started on this. I’m getting frustrated just thinking of using this. I love my iPhone, but I don’t see me doing iPhoto or Photoshop or even Mail on a regular basis on a completely touch screen Mac. I know that since it is technologically possible right now it seems like we should want apple to make this, but I just don’t.

What did I miss?

OK, let’s again assume I missed everything. Let’s say Apple releases the ultra portable for $1299, and the dock as a $500 add on. Do I want it? Why? What type of workflow/lifestyle calls for this? Are we giving it too much credit? Is it powerful enough for a “pro” user to use editing final cut in the field, then to hook up at home? Is it worth Apple expanding and confusing their Mac lineup?

It takes Diff’rent Strokes to move the World

I really do realize everyone has their own way of doing things and their own ideal computing experience that will perfectly meet their needs. And I am sure many of you will be able to tell me why an ultraportable Mac will make your life easier, and I want to hear about it. But somehow it seems moving to an ultraportable means giving too much up for not enough benefit. I consider my current MacBook to be ultraportable. I think the 15-inch MacBook Pro is pretty darn portable. I can’t think of a place I couldn’t bring it that I could bring a slightly smaller laptop. What is the allure? I’m not against a thin, lightweight laptop, but I don’t think the current batch of laptops are so big that we need to give anything up at this point for the sake of half an inch thickness.

Is it just that thin electronics are inherently cool?

46 Responses to “So, remind me again why we want an ultra portable?”
  1. Kcroy says:

    I see your point, but…the best comparison I can make would be the ease of use of the iPhone for checking email, videos, web browsing, etc, and with the tools to word process, Keynote, etc. I think it would be great if it can dock into a desktop like some of the rumors I have heard. But, like you, not so sure it is for me.

  2. The Cos says:

    “Is it just that thin electronics are inherently cool?”
    Yeah, they kind of are. I wouldn’t rush out and trade in my current mbp for one, but if it could run final cut I might consider it if my mbp “has an accident”.

  3. Mikey says:

    “Is it just that thin electronics..”

    Yeah, basically. You’re right when you say the current batch are not *that* heavy.. but they’re heavier than they need to be in some areas.

    Sure not great for everyone, but i can think of at least a few people who’d love one.

  4. My philosophy is if you want a smaller, ultra-portable Mac than the Macbook (which is small enough as it is), get an iPhone. 🙂

    – Highway 🙂

  5. bear chow says:

    Think eee PC … it is very useful, because of its form and its price! I can see a Mac ultraportable with an even better form and design, better built-quality, but definitely not with price! So, I think you are right, until I remember playing with a friend’s ThinkPad tablet, the freedom of having a less than 3lb, 6 hour battery life computer walking around the house, it was like stuck to my hip, which I could not do with my 12″ PB (for me, it’s still the best computer I’ve ever own!) … but then it is all about price, I don’t see paying $1,500 for such a device, however if it was $800 … so, may be in a couple of years …

  6. Adam says:

    I’m totally with you on this one. I went with the honking huge 17″ MBP and I absolutely love it. Sometimes I am jealous of the portability of my girlfriend’s MB but, as a programmer, I find the extra screen real estate absolutely necessary.

    Only situation I can think of that I would really want it:
    A traveling poet/writer who spends a lot of time in French coffee shops and observing art in the Louvre while writing his next opus and cannot stand being shackled to cords longer than the nightly charge necessary.

    (BTW if this describes you, can I change lives with you?)

  7. cocoy says:

    point well taken doc macenstein. couldn’t agree more.

    correct me if i’m wrong: don’t the nand stuff have a shorter lifespan than regular hard drives? if that’s true, i wouldn’t want to use that on a production machine. and people who want the flash stuff… are better off getting an iphone/ipod touch or *cringes* an eeepc.

    for final cut… i don’t think smaller will be good. the 15-incher mbp is the best balance between power and mobility, i think. most people with a subnote dream just want discrete graphics on a package as small as the mb. that’s the deal breaker for them. if apple can offer that as the “black” mb and still have the old embedded graphics chips on the other models, people i think will be satisfied.

  8. Ruhayat says:

    Yes, you are indeed missing something. My Powerbook 12-inch is a Powerbook, not an iBook. In fact, for quite a while Apple had a pro machine with a 12-inch screen.

    I think I see your possible confusion: in thinking “Pro”, you’re thinking “professional designers”. But pro users don’t necessarily do design work. Most of the 12-inch Powerbook users I know are lawyers and corporate people who want a Mac but don’t want to bring a toy-like white laptop to serious business meetings.

    The designers who did get the 12-inch Powerbook are probably like me: we do “real” work on our Power Macs, and just need a small notebook for travelling and to do presentations and such.

  9. It might be a rather interesting idea, but a bit different than you suggest.

    Most of the time I like to work at home with my PowerMac G5. But sometimes I like to leave the house and go to a coffee shop where I can connect to the Internet and work using my portable computer.

    Let’s say I bought a new 24″ iMac with this feature. The iMac would have its own desktop class processor, say one of those quad core ones. Then let’s say there was something about the size of an EEE PC that would fit into the iMac.

    The little guy would not have the super fast processor or memory, but it would have a processor and memory sufficient for web browsing, programming and light photoshop or Aperture (like picking photos, not making elaborate composites).

    There would be a way the contents of the little guy could be synched back and forth. For instance, if I took photographs and loaded them into iPhoto on the little guy, when i returned home they would be moved onto the iMac-like machine.

    And if I did programming on the little guy, the changes could be synched back to the iMac. It would be possible to easily use Time Machine to store all versions of the file so that data would never be lost. And the “Back to the Mac” feature built into .mac could be used to grab files you forgot from your iMac through the network to your little guy.

    I think this would actually be pretty cool. I would love being able to take something light with me that would still be prepared for work, while being able to use the more luxurious large screen of the desktop.

    So it sounds good in that regard, but one might fairly ask how this is really different from having the two machines, putting them near each other and having them sync via WiFi. This would probably be almost as fast and wouldn’t require the complex setup of being able to put one computer inside of the other. Perhaps best of all, the “little guy” could still be used for web surfing and other purposes while working on the iMac.

    Still, this seems like one genuinely realistic concept of how this would help people. I would really like to see this kind of overall concept, although I might be more persuaded by a 30″ display …


  10. Ethan says:

    And I thought I was alone in thinking that this whole ultra-portable thing wasn’t such a great idea. Sure it would be great for those who travel often and travel very light, but beyond them…

    Of course a half-inch thick Macbook would be amazingly cool, but the cool factor doesn’t justify the product at all.

  11. smoovegeek says:

    Count me in with the fans of the ultraportable, if the most tantalizing rumors can be trusted.

    I love my 12″ Powerbook, though it is showing its age quite a bit, because it fits in small spaces when I need it to (school desks, airliner tray tables, etc.) and I can take it home and plug it into a real monitor when I want more screen real estate. I have no need to use it for heavy duty work when I’m out and about. I don’t like the MacBooks for various reasons, and the MBPs are way too big.

    If a MacBook Thin or what have you were introduced, I would gladly give up a ‘pro’ graphics card, optical drive, and decent disk space for the space/power/time savings of onboard graphics and flash memory… well, if there is a dock with a real HDD, optical drive, and graphics card inside that I can use at home when I need them. I’m not thrilled with the idea of an iMac style dock, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The one thing that I would hope for is a ‘Pro’ level CPU, but even a lower-end one would beat my G4 by a long shot.

    I don’t feel constricted by my 1024×768 screen when I’m on the go right now, so I’m guessing a widescreen higher res 12″ display on the ultraportable would do me just fine.

    My Powerbook is small and light enough to take with me a lot of places, but it is still sometimes a bit awkward and the battery life still leaves much to be desired. I would love a machine that I can literally take anywhere and use for watching video, websurfing, and doing light work, then come back home to my dock for Serious Business.

  12. Rowlings says:

    So far the only argument that makes any sense here is the lawyer argument by Ruhayat, I can totally see not wanting to bring a white colored MacBook into a meeting, and maybe even the black one. But, really Apple should just ditch the white and go brushed metal for both the regular and pro laptops.

    But then again, Apple could just release a 12-inch MBP for them, no need to cripple it by making it thinner.

  13. Frogmella says:

    Two words: home use. Why did you assume this would be a Pro machine?

    I have an old PBG4 which I use exclusively at home for surfing the ‘Net, checking emails, writing the odd documents etc. I never put anything in the optical drive, and have used a total of less than 10 gig of the HD. (My seven other Macs do all the clever stuff) 😉

    So I’m definitely in the market for a ‘MacBook Lite’ as a replacement – which I can take out and about as a sort of ‘iPod Heavy’, handling a bit of music, the odd movie and so on.

    Bring it on!!

  14. eyerhyme says:

    For me the ultra portable idea is great because I am looking to make it my live synth rig. With an ultra fast Flash Drive, instruments/samples would load crazy fast. Plus the battery life… no extra power cord on stage. Just MIDI/Soundcard and front of house. That’s my hopes.

  15. Jonro says:

    I could see this as a great concept for students. You take your very portable book-sized laptop to school with you. It doesn’t need a CD/DVD player. It might even have an internal flash drive to increase ruggedness and decrease power consumption. It might have a long enough batter life to last for the entire school day. Then you take it home, slip it into a dock with an integrated 20″ monitor, iSight, additional storage and attached DVD player and it’s a complete system. I think that could be a big seller for Apple.

  16. SteveN says:

    Yes, it’s primarily an education MacBook. Or PodBook. The “one laptop” program suggests that the day when educational materials are printed is ending. Weighing down 90 pound kids with 75 pounds of books is ridiculous when that same money can purchase books on a device that encourages creativity and productivity. Unfortunately the textbook publishers will die before they give up their “crushing” profits. Yes, just like music.

    Beyond that I want a PodBook that will include iSight and iChat, to use on the road for videoconf.

  17. Xeno says:

    For one, eink devices have yet to reach mass appeal and they still do not have the same feedback as actual OLED or other screens. And Ultra thin screens are tauted to replace books and at the same time replace keyboards.

    We come from an age where we are used to keyboard and kave been imprinted with them; much like the duck who has imprinted on the football, we are used to the devices that we were raised with. It takes gradual changes to introduce us to new devices and interfaces.

    Touch screens get rid of the need for keyboards but do not give alot of us the tactile feedback that we have grown used to. But that is because we are the older generation and have not imprinted on the new devices yet. If you give it time you can change and can reimprint.

    I speak from experience having imprinted several times from Windows to Linux to Mac. I still use Mac and Linux but have reduced all Windows use to nil (even use Linux at work). So it’s al about the imprinting, baby. 🙂

  18. Michael says:

    While I agree with most of this article. I think you underestimated the power of docks, it is not as simple as hooking the laptop up with a monitor. I don’t know if you have encountered the docking systems for ThinkPad. They can in fact, provide optical drives, extra harddrive bays, better speakers, or even PCI-e slots, which can be very nice power-ups for the ultra-portable model.

    Anyway, I don’t know about Apple’s intention on this so I can’t say that this must be the way Apple wants to implement it (if they are really up for this)

  19. blah blah blah says:

    “I think the 15-inch MacBook Pro is pretty darn portable.”
    As a student, I can tell you that you are out of touch with education. I need a rugged computer that I can easily cart around, place in my lap and will fit to the side of those wonky pull out desks in auditoriums, that I can take the to library, the anatomy lab, & the research lab. I want something that I can literally forget about. Try putting a 15″ MBP into a backpack and forgetting it’s there – it takes up all of the room. Go to a Sony Style store and paw their 11″ laptops. Those are sort of 3 kinds of attractive. And they’d fit so perfectly in a bag. And 2 lbs is perceptible. I guess the better question is why wouldn’t you give up size for some performance (Lotus Elise? Mazda Miata? Mini Cooper?). There’s a market out there for everything.
    I think you were more on target when you said “everyone has their own way of doing things”. An ultraportable mac wouldn’t be marketed to you. That’s all. And the nice thing is you already know there’s a hawt piece of kit that fits your needs and wants – a MB.

  20. Khürt says:

    A co-worker and I recently had this discussion regarding an ultra portable Mac. He thought it would be a great idea but when pressed for a use case, like most of the commenter’s, he came up short. In my mind the only use case is reading, viewing, playing content; the same as the iPhone/iPod Touch. No way I can see anyone ( except maybe a sketch artists ) using a touch screen as a primary input device. Anyone tried typing 40 words per minute on a touch screen?

  21. m says:

    isn’t it obvious? sorry, but fanboys just aren’t the target audience anymore. macbooks are extremely popular with students, and are gaining ground with everybody else. personally, i’m sick of carrying a 6 pound dell around campus all day. a lighter computer that allows me to do real work–not a weird, junky linux machine from a company i’ve never heard of–would be great.

  22. petey says:

    > “Sure it would be great for those who travel often and travel very light, but beyond them…”

    students and people who fly cross-country on business *vastly* outnumber web designers, artists, and musicians, and like it or not, the typical consumer’s needs — not yours — will determine what apple does from now on. what else do you think the ipod and apple tv represent? this is the price you pay for increased marketshare. get used to it.

  23. m says:

    i will add that the lack of an optical drive would seem to preclude watching movies, a very popular use for a notebook– but then i remembered that we’re supposed to download our movies from itunes from now on, not buy dvds. it all fits perfectly with apple’s plans.

  24. I’m firmly a desktop user. I want a big screen. When I’m “working”, I want to sit at a desk. And while I could use a laptop at a desk and plug it into a monitor, I very seldom want to carry my primary workstation anywhere.

    I’m between palm-top devices right now, & I really miss having one.

    But there are things I’d like to do that would work better on something a bit bigger than a palm-top but don’t really require a full laptop.

    I’ve been in the market for a sub-lap-top/super-palm-top for probably a decade or two, but I haven’t found any device that really does it for me.

    I think that either there are a lot of people like me and that one day somebody is going to do it right and get rich (like Palm did for palmtops)…

    …or those of us who want sub-laptop devices have such a wide range of requirements that there isn’t a “sweet spot” that’ll satisfy enough of us to be a big success.

  25. cnycompguy says:

    I’m amazed that it hasn’t been said yet, but honestly why would it matter to you if apple made an ultra-mobile or not unless you’re one of those people who has to buy one of everything apple makes?

    It’s simple, if you don’t want one, don’t buy one.

  26. Moorey says:

    Hey, why would I need a compact digital camera, when my SLR can do everything and more?

    I mean, a compact digital camera with 2GB mini SD card? That’s so damn silly, it’s practically too small for any RAW images. Can it even do that?? I could do a hell lot more with my Compact Flash 12GB.

    And some lens converter on a compact camera? No way Canon and Sony can be THAT stupid! Why not just use an SLR?? SLR is less than 1KG, so what’s the big deal?? I can lug the damn thing around fine! Battery life is much better anyhow!

    Seriously guys, there’s no market for compact cameras. It’s so small, tiny cards, limited lens attachments, no RAW support. WTFBBQ?

    *I* don’t want it, why would you need it?? Did I miss something here?? It’s just so darn frustrating just thinking why anyone would want it! (C’mon, SLR *is* portable!)

    Maybe people just have a thing for small cameras.. I don’t know.

  27. chudez says:

    i’m left with the impression that the author thinks there isn’t a demand for an ultra portable mac … the hundred thousand units of the asus EEE would seem to indicate that there is a corner in the computer universe for such a creature.

    and i’m no wimp, but i also dont have to be a car so if i want to bring anything with me, i have to carry it all the time. so, yes, dropping the weight a kilo or so makes a perceptible difference (unless you think people who don’t own cars isn’t worthy of having a mac)


  28. Gabriel Wolfe says:

    I find that my Asus Eee PC serves as an excellent ultra-portable. So much so that even my wife now has one. Compared to any laptop, it is tiny. Whilst the wife has no need to change the UI or OS, I have my one set up to allow me to boot into a variety of OSes (all licensed,) depending on my need (thanks to SDHC cards.)

    From the wife’s perspective, it does everything she needs. She can read her eBooks, keep it close to the cooker when looking up recipes or ordering groceries, and she can surf the Internet.

    For myself, I can do my word processing, accounting, and all work related activities. At a push, I could play games.

    It will be hard for Apple to produce something as well-rounded, upgradable and yet ultra-small as the Eee, but not impossible. I’ve tried various solutions, the Q1 from Samsung, the Sony garbage, and more.. Eee suits both of us much better.

    So would I want a dock with it? No not really. As you have finely pointed out – on most of these devices (and the Eee is no exception,) there is the possibility to connect an external display and keyboard – if you so wish. I have no need for this, as I can transfer my data via SD / SDHC card, USB stick, network or if necessary I can pull out my external DVD RAM drive from the cupboard (LG GSA, check them out – ultra small, you’ll approve!)

    In summary, as with the iPhone, the concept of an Ultra-portable Mac and Dock is not something new, and certainly not “revolutionary,” (which is a word I’ve wagered $5 on Steve saying about it,) since the technology has been available in various forms for several years, and in my humble opinion – matured with options such as the Eee PC. I didn’t buy an iPhone because I have an iPod and I have a phone, plus I have my Eee PC. Why replicate functionality? All in one devices are not always as great as people think. My phone gets charged once every two or three weeks, the iPod far more regular. I don’t want that kind of battery life on a phone – and that’s exactly what I would get.

    Therefore, Vagina Mac as I am terming it can keep it’s little baby Mac Book firmly inside for now, and maybe in 9 months they’ll come out with Vagina Mac v2 which will readdress the market.

  29. DTNick says:

    I would have loved to have had an ultraportable Mac laptop (under 4 pounds) while I was still a student. My iBook–and later MacBook–did the job in college, but when you have to haul books around all day, and commute to and from class on the bus, you’ll take any size and weight reduction you can get.

  30. Travelling Matt says:

    I think our pundit has just made the stunning discovery that small laptops are a NICHE PRODUCT.

    For instance, I live in Europe, travel lots on trains and aeroplanes and you don’t want a massive heavy bag or to check a bag when you fly.

    But that’s tricky when you have a standard notebook. What you want is something small that you can use to browse the web, check your e-mails and do a bit of correspondence.

    You can do some of this on a smartphone, but they’re horrible to type on and maybe you want to post a picture to your website in dreamweaver, or show a customer a Photoshop image.

    I can see exactly why you don’t need one, but some people do.

  31. jeti says:

    If the dock had a HDD, it could back up the data of the portable and make it available via “Time Machine”.

  32. An ultraportable is not for developers like ‘us’. It is useful if you have to travel a lot and need a computer for light usage. Like presentations (connected to a beamer), contact to back office, document reading, light document editing, etc.

    In 1999 or so, I had a Toshiba Libretto 110CT, and when traveling through Asia. With the size of videotape, it was really something you could keep with you all the time.

    Of course, I think the nowadays, light computer use can more and more fulfilled with smart phones, so hard to say if there is still much marked for ultraportables, outside of Japan.

  33. Me Again says:

    It really depends on the „kind” of Pro. I don’t own a Mac, I run Linux on a PC. I’m a programmer and my hard drive is about 7GB full. Also, when I code, I tend to have two programs open: a terminal with vim running and Firefox.

  34. Max says:

    I think any UP MB will be a good successor to my existing iBook G4 with the 12″ screen. My usecase however is entirely non-pro, read: home and personal use. I love sitting on the couch with my iB G4 surfing the net. I have considered buying the current MP but with the 13.3″ screen it’s just a little too big.

    SO I am really looking forward to getting any UP MB so that I can replace my 2005 iB G4.

  35. prediction says:

    the product will be this:

    – $600 2 lb chrome clamshell superfast laptop/tablet
    – 8-10 hour battery life
    – touchscreens can can also be keyboard
    – looks/acts like a book
    – realtime handwriting recog for pen input allows for note-blogging
    – camera for iChat
    – eBooks ready as millions of titles from publishers – the iPod for books
    – huge educational software push (every freshman at stanford etc.)

  36. Alexandre Fabri says:

    I use one imac at work and another one at home. I need my files on both because i have business in 2 country’s with 12hr fuse! I sync all using my ipod. Before i was using one macbook. man, to plug that lot of cables everytime i went to office or back home was making me crazy and my bag full of cables! So if apple do that crazy cool dock, i will get 2 ! one for office and another to home. I need my work with me all the time and this will be perfect ! I can just push it out at home and plug it in my office.. done ! no AC, no video out.. like apple likes to say, it just works !

    i can’t wait to get it !


  37. Matt says:

    I bought a new 15″ Macbook Pro and just found it too heavy and too hot – sold within a month and went back to a 12″

  38. Brau says:

    “… it makes your laptop into a laptop hooked to a screen via a dock …”

    I had to say no to this, simply because I don’t think Apple would allow that to happen, nor could it really be a feature. Instead, I feel Apple would synchronize the two desktops so that you are working with the better processor. When you remove your Ultraportable there’s no manual syncing needed.

  39. David says:

    You’re missing the big picture.

    The new wave of portable computers, such as the Asus PC eee, do not cost anywhere near a $1200. They cost £200 in the UK and they are selling faster than the shops can get them.

    They are thin, light, have wi-fi and flash memory. And everyone can afford them. That’s not one computer per family. It’s four or five!

    That’s why Apple and every other computer manufacturer will want to get in on the act.

  40. Charles says:

    My situation isn’t everyone’s, but I’m excited about this. I moved to Japan recently. I used to have a 12″ Powerbook, now I have a 15″ Macbook Pro I bought a little before leaving. Sure, it’s not that much of a difference I thought. How wrong I was. I’m not sure where you live, but I doubt you carry that bag on your back for more then 10 minutes. You can leave it locked in your car. You drop it off at home after you get off work. You head over to a friends place and leave it on the floor. That’s how I used my laptops in the US.

    Here? In Japan? You have to carry it everywhere. 30 minutes of walking to get to the stations, up and down floors of stairs. Standing in a train with the bag over your shoulder for up to an hour depending on where you are going. After work you lug it to bars or restaurants to meet your friends, walking everywhere you go. Public transportation is nice, but going home before going out isn’t an option for 99% of the people here. Those pounds and fractions of an inch make a difference. I don’t need a CD drive in it. The only time you’d use one is at home anyway. Just rip your DVDs and store them on the machine. Even with a 32GB or 64GB drive you can store enough for a trip. I don’t need a pro video card, that isn’t what this machine is designed for. It doesn’t need the fastest processor. Your big tasks, if you have them, are going to be done on another machine at home. Most of Apple’s customers probably don’t need them anyway. I just hope you can put quite a bit of memory in it.

    I’d rather have my iPod Touch to watch movies on in the train if I choose to. I couldn’t use the laptop anyway, even a small one, due to space.

    I can imagine some people in the US might be in a similar situation to mine, but they would be in the minority. Workers who commute by bike might like a small light machine. It may not be a large market, but Apple’s customer base has grown enough to enter this part of the market I think. It would also be attractive to businesses I think, looking for machines for their road warriors. Well, it might help get Apple get their foot in the door. With Apple’s syncing capabilities it makes having two machines much easier.

    I don’t know if it will have a touch screen, I kind of doubt it, but I own a Touchstream keyboard. This was developed by Fingerworks, the company Apple bought for their Multitouch patents. The keyboard is basically two large touch pads with no feedback. I got to the point I could type basically as fast on it as I did on a normal keyboard and I think Apple could do even more to improve it. I’m not sure I’d want it on a machine like this, but it doable and it does work with some learning curve.

    For others, the iPod Touch and iPhone may become their portable computers, especially after the SDK is released. If OmniFocus had an iPod touch version I’d be very happy.

  41. Aaron says:

    I think more than anything it would be really good for people that need to make presentations / show client mockups or proofs / that kind of thing. For those uses, the portable doesn’t need to be powerful (as such) and only really needs to sync up with whatever the main system they have…

    I was waiting for this very device before I bought my MB. In the end I had to get the MB because I couldn’t wait any longer…. But this new device would be ideal for me, especially for the presentations I make.

    BTW, I’m assuming that this new thing will NOT be touch screen. That would put me right off – it’d be cool but useless…

  42. Michael says:

    This market exists today. All the top executives at my workplace use small Toshiba ultraportables because they are light and small. I managed to go with a MacBook when my Dell Latitude needed replacing a year ago – and chose the MacBook over the Pro because I needed smaller/lighter over power.

    Applications I need:

    Email client
    Boot Camp

    I do run VMs due to my job, but that is an edge use and not needed for the execs. I’m thinking if Apple wants to break further into the business market, an ultraportable would be the way to go as that would be the machine that could get people to switch off the other vendors, especially as it can run Windows.

    I’d likely take an Ultraportable+iMac dock during my next upgrade cycle if it was available. I doubt I’d do Tablet+Dock, because I do a lot of email even when on the road and the Tablet wouldn’t be good for that. I might like it for home use, but that upgrade cycle is a long time away for me (just bought a new iMac to go with my existing MacBook).

    I’m thinking, if I’m Apple, I’d refresh the MacBook line, go all Aluminum, bring out the ultraportable with flash drive and no optical. Flash would be nice for travellers as well, because laptop hard drives die a lot for travellers due to abuse, vibration on planes, etc. Hopefully more battery life would be good.

    For those wondering ‘why’ and ‘a ultraportable isn’t much smaller than a MacBook – you need to realize how these people (and myself) travel. Lots of 1/2 day business trips, carry-on only, single bag, light as I can get away with. Every pound helps, smaller helps. Small is sexy in the boardrooms. You combine the sexy of small plus the sexy of Keynote (much sexier than PPT when making presentations) and you’ve got an executive drool tool.

  43. johnny cash says:

    I for one still miss my 12″ powerbook – I love the 15″ MBP i am typing on but have been waitiing for a new portable in the ilk of the powerduo or 12″ pb – so yeah ill be throwing this big thing on ebay maybe in a week or so if Apple actually releases this thing.

  44. Zman says:

    Here is something that I think you are missing. Yes, there are many people who use macs for advanced video editting and serious visual art stuff. However, there are a vast number of mac users who are just standard “users”. These people only use the mac for basic computing tasks such as web browsing, wordprocessing, and a few other light duties. An ultraportable allows these users to do all this and allows them to take their computer with them.

    For example, I have a small laptop that I keep in the living room so I can look up stuff on the fly when I am watching TV. (things like looking up IMDB to settle a dispute on who was on what movie or tv show) In addition to that, I could use this ultraportable machine as an eBook reader. Since I attend college courses online, this would also allow me the opportunity to “go to class” from my much more comfortable couch vs. my not nearly as comfortable office chair.

    That being said, this device is not intended to be a replacement for most people’s primary computer anymore than the EEE pc is. This is intended to be a convenience add-on that allows you to do most of the basic on-the-fly tasks that you want to do, without having to be tied to a desk, or without having to lug around one of the current family of battle tank laptops currently available.

    One last thing, you are correct that there may not be a huge difference between a 5 lb. MBP and a 2-3 lb. ultraportable, but the fact of the matter is, that the weight really does make a difference the more you carry it. Also, the weight loss is not the only additional benefit of this new possible form factor. Battery life, despite the corresponding lack of storage space, can be a HUGE selling point for the always-on-the-road user.

  45. Michael Long says:

    Actually we don’t have to be limited to small, expensive flash-based drives.

    If you want a small, efficient, lightweight, relatively inexpensive drive just use the 1.8″ drives that are in today’s iPods. Is 160GB enough space for a subnotebook?


  46. kevin says:

    I have a MBP and I have an iphone. The iphone has cut down on my MBP usage when I’m moving about. But many times I have thought “If I could have a small device that could do more writing, spreadsheets, programming……I’d love that”. So if they do pull off a very small device with a readable screen and a keyboard that can run most apps and it’s priced right, trust me, colleges, people on the go, and casual users will snap them up like there is no tomorrow.

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