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NVIDIA CEO sees the MacBook Air as the future of laptop design

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has seen the future, and it is ... Apple's present. He believes that in a few years, you'll have trouble finding a computer that doesn't look like today's MacBook Air.

At the risk of offending the power users out there who can't imagine using such a "weak" machine as the Air, let me respond to Huang's words with a resounding "Duh." I fully expect Apple to move the rest of the MacBook line towards the Air: lighter, thinner and with SSDs, because ... well, what else would it do? Thicker, heavier and with the same drives that we had in 2008? Of course Apple is going to move in that direction.

The article over at CNET talks about Huang's "vision" being based on ARM chips, which Nvidia supplies, and believes that we'll see Windows running on ARM in 2014, but even that misses the point. After the announcement that Apple had been developing Mac OS X for Intel processors for years before the public switch to Intel, who would be surprised to learn in 2014 that Apple had also been developing Mac OS X for ARM?

Prognostication about the future is easy and cheap, anyone can do it, and even if you're wrong, it's unlikely that anyone will call you on it. Saying that laptops are going to get thinner, smaller and lighter is about as risky as saying that gravity will continue to affect objects located on the surface of the earth. The only company that is delivering that "future" of computers is Apple, who has actually, you know, shipped something rather than speculating publicly about the future.

Do I expect the new MacBook Pros to look more like the MacBook Airs? Sure. There are questions in the details, of course, such as "Will there still be a SuperDrive or will the Pro line come with a standard hard drive plus a solid-state drive?" But unlike Windows on ARM, you should expect to see "the future" from Apple in a month or less.

Oh, and if you're wondering if Apple agrees with the idea that the MacBook Air is the future, no tea leaves are required; just checkout the title of the MacBook Air's web page: "The next generation of MacBooks." Otherwise, just ask anyone who has used one. One of my favorite recent quotes came from Peter Cohen who said that after using a MacBook Air for a few days: "other MacBooks seem almost Steampunky retro with their quaint hard drives."

I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple announce that the SuperDrive, which has previously been limited to the Mac mini and the Air (a restriction which has always seemed arbitrary and pointless) is now available for any new Mac, but the MacBook Pros will no longer ship with an optical drive. It'll remind me of when Apple killed off the floppy disk before everyone was "ready" for it and despite the fact that some people claimed they couldn't possibly live without it.

All of which is to say that laptop design isn't "going to change," it has changed. Mac users are living in the future of PC users. But don't worry; by the time they catch up, Apple will have found another way to move ahead.

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