SAN JOSE, Calif. – Kudos to Apple for rolling out a solid-state notebook with its new Apple Air 2. In true Apple fashion it is not the first to hit this milestone, but it is likely to be the most talked about.
So let's start the conversation anew.
My view is most notebooks, tablets and other mobile devices will need significant storage capacity and that means devices with hard disk drives.
We live in an age where creating digital pictures, movies and music is easy and storage demands will only go up. Yes, we are shoving more of our stuff to the cloud, but as long as bandwidth is a bottleneck (i.e. for a real long time) we will want fast, local access to an increasing amount of bits.
For the same reason, Apple's decision to remove the optical drive in the Air and talking about the dawn of cloud computing is self serving. Yes I want a thin, cool notebook, but not at the expense of being able to—as Apple once evangelized—Rip, Mix and Burn. In fact, I'd rather have that drive than brag about specs like a notebook that is "0.11-inches at its thinnest point and 0.68-inches at its thickest."
Apple is right that the solid state storage in the flash-powered Apple Air is more reliable and fast than a hard drive, enabling an instant-on experience. But you don't have to throw out a drive to get instant-on, just use a bit of existing system flash.
Flash chips are clearly lighter than hard drives, great for the 2.3 pound Apple Air. But I am not sure my back will break for the few more ounces a drive will add.
Flash will for the foreseeable future carry nearly an order of magnitude more cost per Gbyte over hard drives. The costs may be OK for the upper crusty market Apple courts, but not for mainstream computing.
I note even the entry-level Apple notebooks cost $999. For that you get a model with an 11-inch LCD, 1.4 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2 Gbytes RAM—and a paltry 64 Gbytes solid-state storage. Compare that with the specs of most other $1,000 notebooks. I also note that the price jumps 60 percent—to $1,599—for a13-inch display and 256 Gbytes flash.
I don't doubt the new Apple Air is cool and will find plenty of fanatical users. And I'd love to see the specs on Apple's proprietary SSD design. I also just want to make sure no one kids themselves about the end of hard disk drives in notebooks.
And, of course, I welcome your views.
Steve Jobs shows the new--and disk-free--Apple Air 2