Well, Apple made the news today with another keynote speech by Steve Jobs and the team. Warning: you can file this post right under "first world privilege gadget lust." They called it "Back to the Mac" - after focusing on their handheld gadgets for so long, they're finally paying some attention to the operating system on the desktop and laptops again. With the latest update to the Mac OS - not expected to be released until next summer - they begin the integration of their two operating systems, iOS (for the iPhone, iPodTouch, and iPad) and Mac OS (for the macs). The new Mac OS is beginning to integrate some features of the mobile operating systems. As I said on Twitter, if they do this right, over the longterm, I think it will be very good. But there will be many, many opportunities to screw it up, so good luck to them!
I was half-listening to the keynote today. They made several announcements and among the most interesting to me was the announcement of the new MacBook Airs. Now I think I've found my next laptop. So for me, here's how my criteria (described previously) work out:
- First choice: operating system. I prefer the Mac for almost everything. It is by almost every measure a superior system and apart from all the technical advances, it is just simply pleasant to use. But, work is a Windows shop. So I need Windows. Fortunately, I can run Windows in a virtual machine on the Mac, so I'm all set.
- Second choice: form factor. My laptop is my daily satellite machine at home. I have an iMac where the 'important' data lives and for the most part I just access that data from the laptop as needed. So I want my laptop to be light and easy to carry around. Right now I have a 13-inch MacBook - it suits me fine. But it's getting a little creaky. I don't take my personal laptop to work every day. But since I work for a cheap non-profit - grumble - and we don't get work-provided machines, I sometimes need to. So something small and easy to carry in my bag on Metro is also essential.
- Third choice: memory and disk. When I get a Mac, I max out the RAM. The default configurations are ok. But I tend to run a lot of apps at once and leave them running. That, on top of running a virtual machine constantly, means I need as much RAM as I can get to keep things running smoothly. Disk space is a somewhat trickier question. It used to be that any time I bought a new computer, it had been so long since my last one that I didn't have to worry about disk. The defaults would be more than sufficient. But the addition of solid state drives (with less space than traditional drives) complicates this question. As does the addition of a lot of photos and videos (and ever more music) to my electronic files. This is where using the laptop as just a satellite comes in handy. For example, I can access my iTunes library of music (more than 18,000 songs last time I looked - yes, all legal) from my laptop anywhere in my house, but I don't store any music on the laptop itself.
Given all of that, I am sorely tempted by the new Macbook Airs. Just look at this machine. What's not to like? I don't know if I'll get the little one or its big sibling when the time comes. But this time next year, I think I'm going to have to have one of those.
Aside: one of the most interesting asides in Steve Jobs' keynote today was his discussion of whether to put touchscreens on the laptop. He said it demos well, but in their user testing people don't like it. Touch screens are best used flat - vertical touch screens apparently just end up fatiguing your arm and being annoying. So they're sticking with the trackpad mouse below the keyboard. Apple is notoriously secretive, so the user interface testing they did will probably never make it out into the research community. But I'd be fascinated to see it.