MacBook Air

MBA

Apple has done it again. They join the ultraportable laptop party ten years late and still manage to leapfrog the competition in a single bound. Could this device take off in schools? Let’s take a look.

I love the LED screen concept. Less energy consumption + no mercury or arsenic = longer battery life and less hazardous waste. I’m glad to see serious innovation in screen technology reach a mainstream laptop. Same for the solid-state hard drive. Though it’s too expensive to become a popular choice, it’s a sign of further innovation to follow. Neither innovation is likely to change school adoption dramatically, unless we start offering only models that meet certain sustainability benchmarks.

I hope Apple has made the case of more rigid stuff than that of the MacBook Pro. The say it’s “anodized aluminum,” which if not alloyed with another metal, will bend and warp easily. This could easily put increased pressure on internal components, causing the hardware to fail readily. In a school environment, our MacBooks and MacBook Pros are already extremely fragile relative to the tougher ThinkPads we also own.

People are bummed about the sealed case and internal battery. In our school, I know of no user who carries a spare battery. Typically, users purchase just one battery and then ride it until its performance is no longer acceptable. As long as it’s not a bear to open the case, we should be able to replace batteries just fine.

Oddly, ultraportable laptops are not very popular at our school. I’m not entirely sure why. One would figure that, with so much to carry around, both students and teachers would appreciate the lighter weight and smaller size. A full-size keyboard definitely helps. Very few users like typing on smaller keys for long. Maybe it’s the cost. Or the slower processor. Or the smaller hard drive. Or the lack of expandability. Or maybe our users are mobile but not “ultramobile,” so they don’t need an “ultraportable” computer.

Students and teachers lose their MacBook display adapters fairly readily. Now, they will also have an Ethernet adapter to misplace! Our collection of loaner video adapters will diversify some more.

802.11n? Not for a few years at our school. The cost of replacing all of our access points just to move up to the next wireless standard would be prohibitive. We only just got rid of our last 802.11b WAPs! We will likely get there through our regular replacement cycle.

Multi-touch trackpad? This seems a poor substitute for a tablet PC or multi-touch screen. I’m not excited.

Do I see correctly that there is only one USB port? That won’t do for anyone who wants to use this laptop at their desk for very long.

High price will make it an unpopular choice for school-owned machines. I can’t imagine the additional cost being worth it for faculty or staff, for instance.

Wow factor: huge. We have already seen a dramatic shift toward Macs in our student laptop program, in which students choose their preferred platform. Though the features don’t scream “great for school,” the dramatic lines and clean look may sway quite a few users. Ultimately, I hope our students stick with the more durable (did I just say that?), expandable, serviceable MacBook. The PC users have not gone for the ultraportable Thinkpad. Perhaps they will also eschew the MacBook Air.

p.s. Did Apple goof with the name? “MacBook Error?” “Air MacBook?”

3 comments

  1. bunni says:

    What kind of school do you mean? High School or University? No one on macbookairforum.com is coming from large institutions – this seems like a product individuals would purchase.

  2. rkassissieh says:

    High school, where I work. No prob about the reference to your URL. At least you’re not yet advertising there!

    – Richard

  3. Paul Monheimer says:

    Macbook Air was silly….shoulda been AirBook! Probably already trademarked, though. I concur with your analysis, and had reached the same conclusions. Cool yes, durable, no.