What sort of notebook would Apple have made if they’d come up with this “build a machine with the assumption that its user has access to a tailor-made Internet and a cloud service” idea themselves? The question is of no particular interest. Apple thought of it, and Apple built it: it’s the 11-inch MacBook Air. Apple just couldn’t call it the iCloudBook when it was released last October. The cloud service that caused the machine to suddenly make perfect, elegant sense was still eight months away from its public unveiling.
And when the 11-inch Air was released last year without the added context of iCloud, it made only a little more sense to me than the Chromebook does today. Oh, yes, I loved it and I regretted having to return Apple’s loaner after I finished my review. The advantages of a fully-functional Mac that’s barely larger than a comic book are immediately and intensely compelling whether I’m fleeing the office for just a few hours or fleeing the country just until the FBI has stopped subpoenaing witnesses to testify against Whitey Bulger.
I didn’t quite get it back then. Why would Apple even bother making such a niche MacBook… particularly one that came with so many tradeoffs? No, they should have kept things simple and produced just the updated 13-inch Air. At $1299, it’s too expensive to compete with the MacBook Nothing or the iPad and it’s and not powerful enough to compete with the similarly-priced MacBook Pro.
Okay, well, I was just plain dumb. Today, I can belatedly identify the 11” Air as Apple’s first public salvo in their cloud strategy. Let’s do the math on the 64-gig drive that I originally thought was a complete dealbreaker. Apple has said that iCloud’s 5 gigabytes of free cloud storage will be plenty for most people, if photos and media don’t factor in. That’s reasonable; it seems unlikely that anybody would buy an iCloudBook to do video or audio editing, and those are the kinds of projects that consume huge tracts of disk space. So let’s figure on less than 5 gigs of user documents.
It’s so very clear to me now that just as Superman is the living ideal of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, the 11” Air is the tangible ideal of iCloud. You grab it when you leave the office and that’s it. No syncing, no updating, no need to trust that you’ll find WiFi when you get to where you’re going: iCloud kept your iCloudBook’s files up-to-date as you were updating them on your iMac so you’re already good.
Thanks to the fact that your iCloudBook is a Mac OS device, you won’t need to transmogrify your files between mobile and desktop app formats, as you often must with an iPad. Instead, you can use the same familiar software you’ve got on your office machine. And if you’re missing an app on your iCloudBook, no worries: connect to the App Store and click a button to install it.
All of the work you create and edit on your iCloudBook will have automagically shown up on your home and office Macs when you return. And if our math holds, there’s plenty of free space available to buffer whatever new media or data you happen to acquire along the way… but not so many superfluous gigabytes to jack up the price.
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