When I first heard the name of Apple’s new ultra portable, I cringed. MacBook “Air?” Please. Apple, you’ve gone sophomoric.
That’s what I thought until I saw Steve Jobs’ keynote presentation today. Then it struck me. It’s a wireless world and Apple is moving quickly to own it.
Apple was not first to bring wireless connectivity to the PC world, but was first to make it easy to use, simple to set up. Like a Mac, wireless from Apple usually just works.
I admit that the iPod-cum-iPhone is a natural evolution. After all, cell phones are wireless, and Apple had a multi-billion dollar revenue source to protect, so building the popular iPhone was not a surprise.
With Apple’s announcement of the MacBook Air and Time Capsule, wireless, seamless, effortless backup device, the Mac maker has embraced wireless technology, hardware and software, like no other major tech and gadget company.
I managed to crank out a quick look at the MacBook Air, and even more details are available on the Apple site, and probably coming soon to an Apple Store near you, so I won’t belabor the cool new wireless features in the ‘world’s thinnest notebook.’
Almost overlooked is what Apple has done to Mac backups, a big thorn in the paw of every computer user’s computer life. Yes, OS X Leopard’s Time Machine makes backups ultra easy for Mac users, set it and forget it.
But it still requires a hard drive to be set up, preferably FireWire or USB and connected physically to the Mac.
That all changed today when Apple introduced Time Capsule, a ‘server strength’ wireless backup system for Mac users (yet another reason for PC users to switch to a Mac).
Time Capsule looks like the new Airport Extreme which looks like a plasticized version of a Mac mini (which we did not see upgraded today). Basically, it’s a big hard drive, very big in 500 gig and 1 terabyte sizes, reasonably priced, attached to your wireless home network. There’s that wireless word again.
Apple says that more than half the Macs sold these days are notebooks. Notebooks and FireWire or USB external hard drives are something of a pain for backups. To move the notebook around you have to unmount then unhook the external hard drive.
Time Capsule kills that little problem with a wireless backup system attached to a big hard drive, perfect for Time Machine. The notebook sitting on your lap (like that really happens anymore—can you say ‘Hot!?) or on the dining room table can still backup via Time Machine to Time Capsule.
Wireless is not always fast, but Time Capsule has the latest 802.11n draft 2 specification, so it’s as fast as consumer wireless can get. For now. There’s a USB port included so a printer can be hooked up and used by everyone on the local wireless network.
I didn’t mean to dismiss Windows PC users. Time Capsule actually works with Windows and mounts as a wireless hard drive and uses Bonjour for Windows. Even Tiger users can benefit from a Time Capsule in the house, though there’s no Time Machine in Leopard.
It was chuckle time when I saw Apple’s instructions for using Time Machine and Time Capsule. It’s four steps. Open Time Machine’s preferences, turn it on, select the Time Capsule hard drive, wait a few hours while the first full backup takes place.
Apple is pragmatic these days. Not only does Time Capsule come wireless ready, it also comes Ethernet ready with three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and a single Gigabit Ethernet WAN port to connect to your wired network.
Even a NAT firewall is built in, making Time Capsule an Airport Express with a big hard drive.
Take a moment to think of all the ways Apple has gone wireless in the past few years. All Mac notebooks come with wireless built-in. Ditto for all the iMacs. There’s the iPhone, of course, and now the iPod touch. Expect wireless to show up in iPod nano models in the future.
But the key to the hardware is software and Apple makes using wireless about as easy as possible for the average user, Mac or Windows.
Wireless connectivity also shows up in the refurbished, reinvented, Apple TV, Take 2. Users will now be able to order music and movie rentals from the iTunes Store from their television screens. Behind the scenes, Apple TV can connect and sync with your Mac or PC iTunes.
When Apple announced Intel inside a couple of years ago, Steve Jobs touted Intel’s lower power CPUs as one of the reasons. Since then, Intel has coughed up smaller and faster CPUs, the one in the MacBook Air is about the size of a nickel.
The future of Apple is small, and small means wireless. What’s next? What other wireless goodies can Apple have in store for us? Does the updated Apple TV and movie rentals from the iTunes Store represent the fourth leg of Apple’s chair?
Macs, iPods, iPhone, and Apple Tv/iTunes Store/Movie Rentals and Wireless.