Our faculty development program — through which we receive our periodic computers — announced MacBook Air laptop models today, and I ordered one. As I described previously, I didn’t really need a new computer, but I have to get one now or wait at least 3 more years, so I figure that I have nothing to lose. But, as I have further considered it, I actually believe that a MacBook Air may be perfectly adequate for the vast majority of my computing, particularly the work-related computing.
My work-related computing consists primarily of: Email, Web Surfing, Calendaring, Writing (Text Files, Presentations, and Word Processor Documents), and Reading/Editing (PDF Files, Presentations, and Word Processor Documents). The MacBook Air will be a perfectly sufficient computer for all of these tasks. It will also be a great computer for making presentations, teaching, travel, and lugging back and forth to work.
The main limitations of the Air are the processor power and storage space (and, maybe, the lack of connectors). I do very few work-related tasks that require either of these. After all, I have graduate students to do processor-intensive computing. And my storage needs are almost exclusively related to non-work endeavors (music, photography, etc.). In fact, virtually the only work-related task that I could think of that requires more computer than the Air can provide is using a Windows Virtual Machine to open Office documents containing Macros. (A VM requires too much storage space.)
I do have other uses for processing and storage (mostly storage), related to home life and hobbies. The main thing that I need a Virtual Machine for is actually running Quicken for Windows. (Interestingly, Intuit announced a new Mac product at Macworld. It sounds more Mac-like than their current offering, including gratuitous use of Cover Flow, but as I understand it, it won’t be backwards compatible with the current Quicken for Mac or cross compatible with Quicken for Windows. I think this sounds like a horrible strategy, but I’m not surprised.) I also need storage for photography and, to a lesser extent, music. I’m perfectly content to continue using my current MacBook Pro for these things, with the eventual plan to get an iMac or the like for the home front. And I can use my iPod to take my music to work, freeing up the space on my Air for other things.
This really leaves only the need for a backup strategy. I’m thinking something network-based, most likely. But I have the investigation of backup options as an action item for my lab already, so I’ll probably explore this issue at the same time.
In a perfect world, I probably would have waited a while. At the least, I expect to see the available storage in the Air to increase in the fairly near future. But this is not a perfect world, and this is the only opportunity that I’ll have to try the Air, with no real risk, for at least three years.
Even though I “ordered” my Air today, I won’t have it for a while yet. The computers won’t be ordered by the university until the end of January or early Febuary. And, once they are delivered, they will have to go through university processing. So, the earliest that I expect to see my shiny new Air is early March — too late for my big trip this semester which is in mid-February. But, I’m looking forward to trying the subcompact notebook lifestyle. And, I’m starting to think that it just might work for me.