This piece, about Apple's new optical-drive-free ultrathin (gorgeous) laptop, is very, very sharp.
So, too [like the late lamented Mac Cube], is the Air a proof-of-concept. The concepts it sets out to prove are the clearest ones implied by its name: that data is weightless, that storage is wireless (a concept augmented by the parallel release of Apple’s new hard drive-equipped wireless router dubbed Time Capsule), and that connectivity is ubiquitous.
Five years from now, I suspect that laptops will typically look more like the Air than like my MacBook. Small will win. Wireless will win. Multitouch will win. Security, ubiquity, and interoperability will win. The iPhone changed things, in ways analysts and 'smartphone' addicts still don't seem to understand. And the Air is its direct descendant, conceptually: a portable computing component that leaves home computer tasks to your home computer. It's part of a computing ecosystem, and doesn't pretend to be a self-contained device. It's incomplete as yet - presumably six to twelve months from ubiquitous wireless/cellular access - but the Air is to the laptop what the iPhone is to the 'smartphone': more expensive, more hermetic, and able to do things out of the box that its competitors can't begin to imagine. Gleeful self-quote:
[B]etween the AppleTV and the iPhone, we can see the outlines of a coherent vision for what comes after the personal computer, which isn't a new vision but which is a long leap closer to reality because of Steve Jobs and company: extensible modular devices, omnipresent networking, home data storage distributed invisibly among multiple machines. The box attached to your TV with the Apple logo; the phone in your hand; the Luxo Lamp-looking PC on your desk where you do your homework and make posters for parties; the device that senses when you wake up and plays music from your docked iPod; the control box for the lighting in your garage, with a broadband connection and a Web frontend - all these things are computers, one like the other, in different form factors and with different levels of complexity and extensibility. That's not new. What's new is that it's here and it's being aimed at Joe Consumer.
What's now your PC will someday soon be part of a suite of networked devices in your home; it'll be powerful, moreso than today's PC's, but it'll be different, and some of its features will be gone entirely, except among retro-minded users. (Start with the traditional QWERTY keyboard, a weird technological artifact of the typewriter era.) And its functions will be dispersed among a half-dozen or more devices around the house and office and subway station and public plaza. The PC is just one tool for interacting with certain kinds of data - some of which are better suited to other hardware interfaces entirely.
The MacBook Air is a public invitation to think about information in a new way. Which, since Apple is no longer a 'computer' company as such, may as well be their official ambit.