Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment.
The MacBook Air is the third member of Apple's notebook line and weighs only three pounds while it barely penetrates the third dimension. Nonetheless, Apple is again banking that human factors -- particularly that bigger screens and keyboards are better -- will allow the blade-like profile of the world's thinnest notebook to slice into the traditionally slim market for ultra-portable notebooks.
The Air was certainly the show-stealer at this year's Macworld keynote. While some Mac fans were hoping for a pocket-sized productivity product, the best hope for that in the near term are third-party solutions that can turn an iPhone or iPod touch into such a device. Furthermore, Apple remains one of the few major notebook companies to not offer a product with integrated 3G wireless connectivity. While most of these products have been aimed at business users, the premium positioning of the MacBook Air should have exceptional appeal to these potential customers.
While the computer may fit in an interoffice envelope, the company clearly did not mail the effort in. As usual, Apple has asked much of its suppliers and some of its users in order to achieve stunning results. The Intel chip die package that powers the MacBook Air is 60 percent smaller than those used in other notebooks. For users, there are also compromises, including a bare minimum of ports that exclude wired Ethernet and FireWire. The latter has been a Mac hallmark since the days of the first iMac, but with camcorders now rapidly moving to USB and flash cards, the case for its inclusion where space is at a premium is not as strong as it once was.