John Gruber has laid out my exact thinking about how the Macintosh lineup works. If you want a portable Macintosh as your sole computer, the MacBook Pro is the way to go. Probably the 15″ model, high end everything would be best. You can add an external monitor later if needed.
On planes, especially in coach but really, anywhere, this computer, even in its 13″ version is bulky, tough to get out of the way when food comes, and only the latest models can make it across country on a charge without external power.
For planes an iPad is the way to go and on my recent flights to and from Los Angeles I saw dozens of iPads in use on the planes. I’m not kidding, there were over thirty in use on the way out, even more on the return (I saw two new model MacBook Airs at the airport in LA). However, if one wants to do some typing on planes, the new 11″ Air is a great way to go because the keyboard is built in and folded, it’s the size and only a bit heavier than an iPad.
If you think of the 11″ or even the 13″ MacBook Air not as MacBook Pro alternatives but as iPad alternatives with a keyboard, you won’t judge their lack of RAM and processor speed harshly because you won’t be using them as primary computers, you’ll be using them as you would an iPad. And, thinking of them this way will allow you to buy lower speed processors in them because you’re not going to be using them for high end tasks, just the kinds of things you might do with an iPad.
If you’re a hunt and peck typist and avoid typing as much as possible, the iPad’s on screen keyboard won’t be an issue for you. I touch type and I like a full size, hardware keyboard if I can have it and I’m willing to pay for it. So, let’s put the iPad and the 11″ MacBook Air next to each other and see what’s what.
iPad: iOS, apps, connect through iTunes or the camera connection kit, no iSight camera yet, bluetooth or dock keyboard extra, solid state, instant on, everything is autosaved in iOS.
64 Gig iPad, Camera Connection Kit, Apple wireless keyboard, iPad Case, AppleCare: $935
11″ MacBook Air: Mac OS, Macintosh applications, 2 USB ports, display port, built in keyboard, solid state, instant on, standard saving of documents under Mac OS.
64 Gig 11″ MacBook Air, AppleCare: $1248
128 Gig 11″ MacBook Air, AppleCare: 1448
I could load ripped movies onto each of these devices, get and send email, browse the web, connect to my mobileMe account, track my RSS feeds and Twitter feed.
Yes, one could buy an iPad with less memory and make the price offset even greater but loading music and images and a few movies and some apps take space. I’d rather buy that space up front on any of these machines.
When you fold up an 11″ Air it’s very much like an iPad in its case and not all that heavy. This really appeals to me along with the idea of not holding it up for reading which seems to tire me out more than putting it on my lap. A screen with hinged keyboard can more easily sit on a lap and I don’t enjoy typing on the iPad with a wireless keyboard when the iPad isn’t on an easel. I’ve tried it, it’s awkward for me.
I haven’t touched a MacBook Air yet and until I do I’m sitting on my hands. But, I’m quite sure that I’ll be getting an iPad or a MacBook Air before I make my next trip across the country.