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Interview: Sony's Thoughts On the MacBook Air

Illustration for article titled Interview: Sonys Thoughts On the MacBook Air

During the Keynote, Jobs compared the Macbook Air to Sony's TZ ultraportable, implying it had a small keyboard and screen, was too thick, and was not that good. Here's what Sony thinks of the Apple MacBook Air:

Mike Abary, senior vice president of VAIO product marketing, thought the engineering to get a laptop that thin was extremely impressive. But Sony had a similiar vision for an ultraportable once, a carbon fiber notebook in 2004 called the X505 (above) that eschewed the optical and was 0.3 inches thick (compared to 0.16 of the Air) at its thinnest segment. It wasn't that well received, and research later pointed out that "Thinness is not the holy grail". Making something that thin and sexy cost it too much usability. (Many of you agree in the comments on Giz.)

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To be fair, dropping an optical in 2004 made no sense, but it makes more sense in 2008, especially with broader internet connections, bittorrent, greater storage capacity, thumbdrives, and Apple's Remote optical drive tech which works over wireless N. But since the X505, ultra portables from Sony have evolved into the TZ, complete with LED backlight, a small but usable keyboard, plenty of ports and built in 3G data. So it is possible that Sony believes they are in many ways 4 years ahead of Apple in their understanding of what consumers want.

When the NYTimes pushed Jobs on the issues of limited storage, he responded, "Maybe this isn't the computer for you." I asked Mike who they thought the computer was for. "Beats me" was the initial reply, but came up with an answer: The extremely design conscious. I asked what feature he'd bring back to the Air, and without hesitating, he thought it should have for 3G.

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I wish I could dismiss all of this as competitive trash talk, but too many of you feel the same conflicting feelings about where the Air fits into your collection of machines. At Giz, we're only tormented inside because we still want to buy it, despite it being not all that practical.

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DISCUSSION

@dambo29:

" I believe the point of the computer really not having an optical drive is because you could do it all wirelessly"

Well, yes and no. The core target of the product are people who already have one or more computers (presumably at least one desktop) on which they'll do bulk of their work while at home. The MBA is what you would take on the road. Installing software, ripping CDs, etc., are all activities that usually take place at home, and if you're the type to have a desktop and a laptop, then you're probably savvy enough to use — come on, you have to admit it — the very easy to use remote disc function of the MBA.

Now, it was you who brought your mother into this. While I would agree that your mother probably is not the core target, I'm arguing that she could be perfectly happy with the MBA, even if it is to be her sole computer, so long as she buys an external superdrive. Contrary to what you suggest, however, she won't have to carry it around everywhere because, again, ripping CDs and installing software, etc., are activities that for the most part take place at home. She'll just keep the superdrive in her desk drawer, hooking it up to the MBA only when she needs to.

And your mother being much older than you and being a woman 'n' all (j/k, not being sexist or anything), I'm sure is certainly in the group of people who would appreciate the MBA being 1.5 pounds lighter than a MB, even if it meant that she can't rip CDs on the road.

Am I saying that the MBA is perfect for your mom? No. I don't know her. But if I were to gift my own mother with a laptop (she doesn't have her own computer, neither a desktop nor a laptop), and if I were financially a little better off than my current, sorry-ass grad-student situation, then I would choose the MBA (along with the external superdrive) over any other laptop out there, including Windows laptops. Obviously, YMMV, but who here is saying otherwise?