Now that we’ve seen the new 13.3″ Apple MacBook and are reassured of Steve Jobs’ health, let’s take a look at what your $1,299 or $1,599 is going to get you. Be warned, I have a long-winded rant about the removal of the FireWire port at the end.
It’s going to get you a very nicely designed notebook (that appears to be sturdy). It’s environmentally-friendly to boot (which matters to some). It’s got a decent graphics chipset that even supports Apple’s new 30″ Cinema displays (which just so happen to have cables to charge your MacBook without you having to take your A/C MagSafe adapter out of your bag). It’s got LED-backlighting, and you even get the option of adding a 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD).
It also gets you an incredibly cool multi-touch touchpad that’s glass, yes glass, that actually acts like a button (it is the button – there are no separate buttons). You can even use four-finger gestures for certain actions. This was the most interesting thing to me (even more so than the design). I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one in my local Apple Store.
It’s a great looking notebook brought up to date, but for every two steps forward, there’s one or two steps back, and some of these are real head-scratchers.
Here comes the long-winded rant about FireWire – you’ve been warned!
No FireWire will upset quite a few people (including members of my family). If you want FireWire, you have to go up to the $1,999 MacBook Pro or buy one of the $999 MacBooks (“legacy MacBooks” for lack of a better term) still available (and there is no telling how long those will be around). Stepping down to a previous version or paying $700 more just to get something that has existed in every Apple notebook for the past 7-8 years is not going to sit right with many. I have a friend who does freelance audio work, and some of the places they work, there’s no way they’ll lug a $2,000 15″ notebook in there. It’s not just because it’s $2,000, something many people can’t casually afford, but also because of space limitations – they carry and have enough gear as it is. Same with DV cameras – I know plenty of people that have cameras that support FireWire, and now they will have to use other cruder methods for editing their home movies in iMovie if they stay with MacBooks. We use a MacBook Pro for some trips, and if we had to use some other means than FireWire/DV, it would be a pain.
It feels like a money grab.
This isn’t Apple ditching floppies or anything similar to situations in the past where they’ve dropped legacy-type interfaces that were clearly holding things back – FireWire works wonderfully well for DV video cameras (iMovie HD even supports the newer budget HD movie cameras), and many audio devices and interfaces. For people in the audio business, FireWire is crucial to their job. This isn’t getting rid of some kind of legacy-type of interface – FireWire is still going strong, we have FW400, FW800 and soon FW1600 (will probably be out around the time of USB 3.0).
If Apple believes FireWire is going away, then they would have made a big deal out of moving on, just like they did when they ditched the floppy – some of you remember the big show Apple made out of ditching the floppy. In this instance, this feels like Apple using a simple port to get people to buy a more expensive notebook and that feels like something certain other companies would do. Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, etc., all still have FireWire ports in their budget 13.3″ lines, and outside of Sony, the others have much less of an incentive to keep FireWire around than Apple does, and yet they are still offering it in their latest and greatest 13.3″ budget laptops (that are cheaper than the MacBook).
They are downplaying it as well. It’s great that Steve Jobs mentioned in the Q&A after the event that they are aware of netbooks and the netbook market, but I would have liked somebody to put him on the spot about the FireWire port. When they’ve gotten rid of things in the past, they made a big deal out of it.
– Mini DisplayPort – Apple, Apple, Apple. Please stop with the proprietary stuff or at least include the adapters – paying $30 to get a DVI or VGA adapter so you can plug it into an existing display is ridiculous. Don’t nickle and dime us. These adapters were included with Mac notebooks in the past. Not many people care about the remotes – that’s something legitimate to be left out, since many don’t use them (or just lose them), but to charge extra for adapters just to use the displays we already have, something that’s included with previous models..it’s like the FireWire port, it smells fishy.
The FireWire and the new mini-DisplayPort – they aren’t about saving a few mm of space or a few cents here and there – just look at the 11.1″ laptops Sony and others put out that have more interfaces, or the netbooks that squeeze in SD slots and more USB ports and even the occasional ExpressCard/34 slots.
We have a MacBook Pro in our house that we use for photos, movies, etc. It’s getting to the point where this would have been a good time for us to upgrade. At this point, the MacBooks are much more powerful than our Macbook Pro. Most of my work and hobbies, I’ve made a point to stay platform neutral – I can function just as well on Windows as I can on Mac OS X (and Linux when needed), and I have VMWare sessions set up on my ThinkPad and some Parallels Desktop VMs setup on our MacBook Pro. My better half will stay with OS X until who knows when, and she’s not going to go out and buy a new camera with a USB interface (which would have less functionality than our current DV camera and we aren’t going to spend several hundred dollars to replace perfectly good camera).
What we had hoped to do is buy two laptops this time around – a Tablet PC/convertible for me (I’ve been eying some of the new HP Tablets for a while), and a MacBook for her. It would be very affordable for us, and we both end up with what we want.
Now we can still go with the older $999 MacBook, but it’s become a principle thing. Nobody wants to see the introduction of a new machine with a lot of cool new features and then be told to go spend $300 less to get an older machine with more functionality. We wanted to give Apple money here!
With all of that said, if it had the FireWire port, would we be buying one? I might have been typing this on one as we speak (of course it wouldn’t be a long-winded rant!)
Would I recommend a new MacBook to somebody who would never use FireWire? I think so. There are jokes about not buying Version 1.0 of new Apple products, but this is based on good design principals that went into the MacBook Air (and now MacBook Pro).
In the scheme of things, it’s probably insignificant, but Apple is a company I like – I like what Jobs has done, and while I’m not a huge Mac user or anything, I normally have no reservations about recommending them to people who ask about switching to Macs.
This is just not a road I want Apple going down.