Now that the specs are out, some fast comments on the MacBook Air.

I think most complainers about missing features are seriously mistaken; they’re thinking it’s a replacement for the current MacBook and MacBook Pro lines (and if it were, they’d be right). But it’s a matter of demographics. The Air is perhaps the first Mac specifically designed as a secondary machine – though I suppose it might be OK as a primary machine for some small segment of the market.

The comments remind me a lot of the reactions to the Smart ForTwo car. It just seats two people, its luggage space is very small, it’s not ideal for long trips, and (at least here in Brazil) the wheels are too small for driving on the usually bumpy/potholed roads and highways. But that’s comparing it to larger cars, which makes no sense. As evidenced by its success in Europe, there is a market for it that usual cars can’t even compete in. I’d buy one (or two) if I could afford it – as they’re imported, they’re actually more expensive than locally-built full-size cars.

See, the market for the Smart is very specific. It’s an excellent second car for urban commuters – no sense firing up the family’s large car (or [shudder] SUV) just for driving to work or to the grocery, or for dropping the kid off at school; at least if it’s one kid only. It’s great for people who need to rent a small car for a few days in a foreign city; inexpensive and easy to park. Childless professional couples would get two.

Same thing applies to the MacBook Air. My main working machine is an iMac G5 with a second display; getting a little old but still usable. Every couple of days I copy my working folders to my laptop (currently a PowerBook G4), work on them somewhere, and return in the evening and copy the changed files back. I also use the laptop on trips, mainly for a similar purpose.

Now this is quite different from the days where that PowerBook was my main working machine; then, I needed (and got) maximum RAM, the largest hard drive on the market, lots of interfaces, and a DVD drive. Now, I need very little of that: a good screen, a normal-sized keyboard and a network interface (which can be wireless) is enough for me. I don’t need speakers (headphones are OK), audio input, or even an optical drive.

So, the MacBook Air is aimed right at my demographic. In other words, it doesn’t substitute or update the existing MacBook/Pros; it’s a machine for a specific segment that didn’t have a “lightweight” model directly aimed at it.