An 11.6-inch MacBook Air? Sounds like a netbook

If the latest rumor is true, Apple may be entering the netbook market it once held in disdain.

The MacBook Air, despite its ultra-thin, eye-grabbing design, has never been one of Apple's top draws. Too pricey for mainstream buyers--even after the Apple lowered the introductory price from US$1800 to $1500--the oh-so-stylish portable has become the anorexic black sheep of the MacBook family. Like Dell's copycat Adamo, the Air is a showy business notebook best suited for status-seeking corporate execs.

But maybe there's hope for the MacBook Air. If today's rumor from the Taiwanese tech news site DigiTimes is true, Apple soon will launch a new Air model with an 11.6-inch display and an Intel Core i-series low voltage CPU.

If the new MacBook Air does feature an 11.6-inch display--significantly smaller that the current model's 13.3-inch screen--would that mean that Cupertino has changed its stance on netbooks? Apple management in the past hasn't been shy about expressing its disdain for Windows-based mini-notebooks, particularly models in the sub-$500 price range.

The new model will also be slimmer and lighter than today's amazingly thin MacBook Air, according to Digitimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo.

(Kuo also says the next iPod touch will have a 3-megapixel camera and, like the iPhone 4, will feature Apple's new A4 processor. A U.K.-based rumor from last week said the iPod touch would add a 5-megapixel camera and FaceTime video chat.)

In October 2008, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said his company wouldn't "know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that." And in January 2009, Apple COO Tim Cook restated Jobs' anti-netbook mantra during an earnings conference call.

I'm not suggesting that the new MacBook Air will cost $500. In fact, it'll almost certainly be north of $1000. And whatever its specs, I suspect it'll remain a high-end business laptop designed for an upscale, niche market.

But would a smaller display also mean an ergonomically-challenged laptop? Let's hope not. In my experiences with Windows-based netbooks, the tiny screens and hard-to-use keyboards get very irritating after an hour or so. Business travelers may appreciate a mini-notebook's light carrying weight, but usability is often poor.

If Apple launches a high-end netbook, the keyboard, display, and processor would be key areas of concern. The keyboard would need to be relatively spacious for a smaller notebook; a high-resolution screen (perhaps similar to the iPhone 4's excellent retina display) would be essential; and the low-voltage CPU would hopefully resolve the heat issues that have plagued some current MacBook Air users.

Today's MacBook Air is a business notebook that business users don't want. Would a more netbook-like design boost its popularity?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter http://twitter.com/jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags notebooksApplehardware systemslaptops

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?