Sunday, February 13, 2011

MacBook Air > iPad - App Store Advantage

I was at Barnes and Noble the other night with my wife. We'd gone there to find a cafe environment that stayed open late. As it turns out, my wife was too restless to stay for long but while we were there something happened.

A guy who had probably fifteen to twenty years on me came up and tapped me on the shoulder.

"How do you like that?" He said, pointing to my MacBook Air.

"I don't usually recommend these. They'll ruin you to all other laptops. You'll only be able to use this one because everything else will feel like a slow and bloated pig by comparison." I explained. I gave him my best thirty second description of the device and told him to talk to Andrew at MacLife (Clickorz) on 8th Street in Boise. He inquired about my wife's iPad and then (presumably) headed off to make new plans for his next technological companion.

The whole thing gave me pause for thought the following day. Could a MacBook Air be someone's only computer? I think I stated it previously: for most people the answer is yes, and that number will likely grow in June when they get updated with Sandy Bridge processors. If I traded up in June for one that had 128GB SSD and one of the new Processors, I struggle to think of something I couldn't do with it. Yeah, I'd have to have my 27" Cinema Display for Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro, Artboard and similar, but that goes without saying.

Yeah, a person would have to figure something out for an optical drive. If they already have a Mac in the home that has one, it's a simple matter to share it out to your MacBook Air. I used the method to install CS4 and Sketchbook Pro, previous to the emergence of the App Store for Mac. Worst case scenario you'd have to buy the $79 external optical drive. However, not for too much longer I should think.

If the App Store for Mac continues to do well, Mac users could see the end of buying a physical copy of an application or program. While my own experience with Apple's app stores has been a mixed bag, my recent purchase of Artboard was very satisfying in one respect. Apple treats the Apps sold through the store like it was their own software in many regards.

I made the purchase on my MacBook Air by using the App Store program, making my selection just like the App Store for iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch). It quickly downloaded and installed on my Mac in a way very familiar to the mobile form factor. I then went over to my iMac and RE-DOWNLOADED it to that machine from my account. That's right, I downloaded it a second time ... from the App Store. I'm sure there's probably a limit to the number of machines an App can be installed to, but this is a big step forward for Apple.

It pains me to say this, but this makes my MacBook Air a superior device to the iPad because of the how the two App Stores function when held up side by side. Looking at the Apps that I really like to use on my iPad, I'm sure as equivalent programs appear on the Mac App Store... I'll be using my iPad less and less.

If Apple was listening only to me I'd make the following suggestions relative to their Mobile Platform App Store:

1. Allow Mac users to use something (anything!) other than iTunes to manage mobile applications on their Mac.

Or just fix iTunes so it doesn't stink something awful for the purpose of browsing/buying mobile applications on my Mac.

2. Allow folks to download Apps I've already purchased one device to another without having to sync.

I've seen one occasion where one of your own developers could have really used such a feature while he was traveling on the road. His iPad crashed mid-update and his primary machine was at home. If his purchases had been tracked in such a way that he could have gone and downloaded them again, it'd been a much more sunny situation.

3. Fix your billing system so it doesn't arbitrarily (and randomly) decline my bank card.

Why would you not want my money? Seriously.

Can't wait for June. Hopefully the new Sandy Bridge processors are everything advertised. We'll get a peek of them in action with the new Samsung Series 9 Laptop sporting the Core i5 Sandy Bridge Processor. It's very similar in form factor to the MacBook Air 13". Any reviews written after it's release will be good indicators as to how those processors will rock the MacBook Air line.

Update (September 13th, 2011):

As this entry seems to draw some regular traffic I feel the need to update.

1. As it stands, iTunes is still the only way to manage your applications. There are rumors that it is going to get a ground up redesign, perhaps in preparation for, or in the wake of, iOS 5? One of the features of iOS 5 is that the iPad will become a stand alone device no longer requiring a computer to back itself up.

2. You can now download applications to your iPad you've already purchased without having to sync to your computer. You just go into the App Store on your iPad and click the "Purchased" button at the bottom. It'll allow you to browse everything you've purchased and download it if you desire. The iTunes App has the same functionality. Hurrah!

3. Visa completely botched getting me my new bank card and had to issue me a completely new number. For whatever reason, Apple's billing system likes my new card... for now.

I'm still using the iPad I purchased back in April of 2010 and the MacBook Air I got in December of 2010. Both have performed so well I haven't felt a powerful desire to trade up for the newer models.

For the iPad, add to my Wish List:

A. 3-5 competitive cloud storage options that have iPad applications that allow for detailed data storage manipulation.

B. An easy means to sync Pages Documents between my Mac and my iPad. I hear that might be in the works, but I'm gonna wish for it anyway.

C. A means (even convoluted) of removing certain Apps that come preloaded from Apple.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Keep me updated on your assessment in June--fast and light...and effective/functional appeals to me...for word processing and maybe field foto editing. Thanks for the insights.

  2. Our 10-year-old iMac is rapidly declining and we're considering a MacBook Air as a replacement (although I am partial to the new iMac simply because I like desktop systems). Great article - I'm quickly getting sold on the Air. :)

  3. As the new iPads and MacBook Airs come out this year, I'll be trying to lay hands on them and subsequently review them. Other than the Samsung Series 9 Laptop coming out soon, these are the probably the two Mobile Devices to watch this year outside of smart phone territory.