Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MacBook Air Has No Wired Ethernet

If you are old enough to remember the original iMac shipping without a floppy drive you may be experiencing some deja-vu this week. The MacBook Air has wireless Ethernet but no RJ45 jack. If you want to plug into a wired Ethernet network you need to use an external USB Ethernet adapter, sold separately. At $29 it costs about the same as the USB floppy drives so many people bought for their Bondi Blue iMacs.

Apple's message to the world in 1998 was that it was time to let go of our floppy disks. It was 1980's technology and in the Internet age it simply didn't make sense anymore. Anything we couldn't do over the wire could be done with CDs or Zip drives. They were right. It took the rest of the world the better part of a decade to realize it, but they were right. In the mean time VST sold a hell of a lot of USB floppy drives.

Now Apple is shipping a laptop with no Ethernet card. Strictly speaking WiFi is Ethernet, but in many people's minds Ethernet will always be associated with RJ45 plugs and cables that look like overgrown telephone cords. The important thing is that Apple has stepped ahead of its customers again. I guess it's something Steve Jobs needs to do once every ten years or so; NeXT, iMac, MacBook Air.

Yep. It was time.

Wireless networks are not and never will be as reliable as copper wires. Don't believe me? When was the last time your cell phone dropped a call? When was the last time you were on a land line to land line call and got cut off? Can't remember? Me either.

This is not to say that a wireless only computer is a bad idea. I'm also not dissing wireless networks. I'm just saying that people need to be realistic about these technologies and the services they provide.

Apple is going to promote the MacBook Air as the greatest thing since DRAM (or since the iPhone) and try to convince anybody who will listen that it is for them. This does not make them evil. It simply makes them a company that likes to sell computers.

Reality is that the MacBook Air is for a certain class of users who have relatively specific needs. They own another Mac that they will continue using. They have access to multiple, reliable wireless networks. They can afford to spend $2K+ on a second or third computer. They work both in and away from the office, on different computers. They have little or no need for peripherals when away from the office. They do not work with large audio or video files.

To the extent that people other than those just described are attracted to the MacBook Air they are headed for frustration. They will also be buying a USB Ethernet adapter. When they loose the first one they will need to buy another.

How many USB floppy drives did you go through in the late 90's?

1 comment:

Dr. Z said...

Dr. DJ

I like what you say about the MBA. I have been trying to figure out who the target market is for this computer. I believe that it if designed for the cross-over purchasers.

thanks for your insight

Dr. Z