Not long after the iPad came out, I was one of those people who thought it could replace my laptop. I bought a third party Bluetooth keyboard and tried to make it a mini laptop. The good news is, in this configuration, it actually worked well for taking notes, checking email and surfing the Web. In fact, not long after the Zagg Keyboard Case came to market, I put my iPad in this combo case and it actually even looked like a mini laptop.
However, I quickly discovered that, while the iPad was great for some productivity tasks, it could never replace my laptop. Anytime I had to do a heavy lifting project, such as working on large spreadsheets and charts, editing a long document and even managing my photos, I used my laptop. I suspect that, in the end, I use my laptop for 80% of my mobile computing productivity and only use the iPad in mini-laptop mode when going to a meeting to take notes and not wanting to carry a laptop with me.
Part of the reason for this is a laptop not only has a larger screen but its keyboard and trackpad/mouse makes it much easier to navigate large amounts of content and easily cut and paste things I need for these charts and documents. While I could do some of that with an iPad, it was faster and easier to use a laptop. Plus, the laptop has much more power behind it to help me be more productive. During the first two years the iPad and tablets were on the market, many tried to make a tablet work as their only personal computing device but, during the last three years, most found it could, which is partly why laptop sales are growing again.
When I saw the new MacBook, I immediately realized it kind of looked like my iPad/keyboard mini laptop but now had a full sized keyboard, a 12 inch screen and, more importantly, the full Mac OS X experience. Interestingly, weighing in at 2 lbs, it is actually lighter and thinner than my iPad with the Zagg keyboard. I have been testing the new MacBook for about a week now and I can see how this will become my go to, carry everywhere with me laptop and will now relegate my iPad to being just a great tablet again.
Although I have been using a 13″ MacBook Air for years, I found the new MacBook’s 12” screen worked fine for all of the things I do with a laptop. Apple used a new type of ultra thin keyboard that is slightly different than larger full travel keys, yet I found it was very easy to use and took only a few minutes to adjust to its feel. Apple has been criticized for using an Intel Core M processor in the new MacBook but I found it performs very well and, with its extra graphics processing power, it plays movies, videos and music flawlessly. Even with my relatively poor eyesight without reading glasses, I have had no problem using its Retina Display even though it has a lower screen resolution compared to the screen resolutions on larger MacBook Pro’s.
To be clear, the new MacBook is not designed to be a power laptop or one that demands very high speed processing and ultra-high resolution. This is what I call the ultimate road warrior or corridor warrior machine that is light and thin and can be taken with you everywhere. While its price point is a bit high for students, it would also make a great student laptop since it is very easy to carry and gives them the full power of OS X in a very small footprint. I still will use a more powerful laptop with a larger screen, most likely tied to a very large monitor, when I do complicated charts, presentations, sophisticated DTP and editing projects, etc. However, this new MacBook will now always be in my bag and become the laptop of choice when I am away from the office and on the road.
The new MacBook is actually a game changer for the industry for numerous reasons. The first is it helps usher in the era of the ultra-thin laptop. Dell’s XPS 13 and Lenovo’s Yoga Pro 3 are the first of this breed of ultra-thins but the new MacBook is thinner and lighter and, from a design standpoint, is the most stunning of these three clamshell laptops. Apple still believes touch is not important in clamshells while Dell and Lenovo add touch as part of their design. But this new breed of laptops will be a better option for highly mobile computing users than the current ultra-lights that populate the laptop market today.
What is inside this new MacBook will eventually influence the design of next generation ultra-thin and thin and light laptops too. Apple’s logic board is the size of two iPhone motherboards. Key designers of the iPhone team helped create the new MacBook logic board and crammed an amazing amount of technology into a very small footprint. This is also a game changer since it is bound to make some laptop vendors rethink how they design logic boards for their own ultra-thin and ultra-light laptops. Also, the new terraced battery design will force competitors to look much closer at how they design their own batteries if they want to get a competitive product in the market that even comes close to Apple’s ultra-thin design.
Another thing it will influence is screen sizes in ultra-thin laptops. The Dell XPS 13 and Yoga Pro 3 both sport 13″ screens. When you put them next to a MacBook, they seem large by comparison since even that extra inch impacts their overall form factors. Apple believes a 12″ screen is the perfect size for a road warrior laptop and I tend to agree. It is a great size for us road warriors who need a fully functional OS X laptop but covet the small size and weight this delivers.
The other thing it will influence is design. It is clear to me Jony Ive is the new Steve Jobs and from now on design will be at the forefront of everything Apple creates. If you look at competing ultra-thins, they still look like mainstream laptops with color schemes that do not vary much. Apple has used design and color in the new MacBooks to make them stand out — they are highly distinctive.
This is the type of laptop I have been wanting for decades. Thin, light, under two pounds, it has had the same effect the original iPad had on me in that the iPad became a device I always have with me. My iPad is still going to be a faithful companion but I will now take the new MacBook with me as well and have the best of both worlds during my business day. This is by far the best ultra-thin laptop on the market and will become the gold standard for this type of portable computer.
I realize that Microsoft’s Surface Pro and tablet/keyboard combos make sense for some people. And in the Windows world the Surface Pro, Dell’s XPS 13 and Lenovo’s Yoga Pro 3 fit the ultra-thin need for the Windows crowd at least today. However, for the Mac crowd and switchers, the new MacBook delivers a great ultra-thin notebook experience I believe is even better and, for this group, it will have a lot of appeal. There is no question in my mind Apple’s new MacBook will be a big hit with those who want an ultra-thin portable device to carry with them all of the time. And no doubt it will eventually influence their competitors in the same way the MacBook Air pushed them to rethink their designs and create similar products just to stay competitive.