Two words kill off 12″ PowerBook

Posted in at 9:15 by RjZ

“Meet the family. Now Complete.”

It’s the “Now Complete” part that cinches it.

Today Apple released its new line of MacBooks. These new 13″ screen computers round out their laptop line and replace the iBook, previously the consumer end of their laptop spectrum. They look good and the distinction between the consumer-end and pro-end of their laptop line has certainly been further blurred as the feature differences between the MacBook and MacBook Pro dwindles.

I still own a PowerBook 12″. It’s a tiny anodized aluminum number that packs everything, including a DVD burner into an amazingly unobtrusive package. The aluminum is not only durable, it’s just plain sexy; without being showy. This isn’t just fashion, either–it matters. I can open up my laptop almost anywhere and its compact size and simple exterior make it little more irritating than a PDA or cellphone (which is not to say that it’s appropriate everywhere.)

The new ‘Books are glossy polycarbonate in black or white. Neither of which is as cool as aluminum or as understated. The new MacBook’s are bigger too. Sure they have glossy new widescreens which are surely quite a bit better than my 12″. Of course they have new microprocessors that are significantly faster and built in cameras for teleconferencing. They have IR remote controls to control slide shows, music and DVDs from across the room.

Except Apple missed the point about the 12″. The most important specification about the old 12″ isn’t its power or its screen; it’s the small size. Well, that’s not true, because there are smaller and lighter laptops out there. Actually, it’s the size combined with its everything included design. I find it silly that people with ultralight computers lug around large chargers, extra batteries and DVD drives, all separate from their computer. What’s the point? If you bring these things anyway, all you’ve really done is made your laptop more challenging to travel with.

Apple’s tagline for the new computers sends a clear message to followers like me: the 12″ format is dead. Buy a MacBook or MacBook pro. Too bad. I’ll never be able to upgrade my 12″ aluminum. The 15″ format is also an amazingly thin, do everything computer but it’s a bit large to carry around the world; I hope Apple makes a capable PDA some day.


  1. dwgoebel said,

    May 16, 2006 at 16:06

    Logic is futile Ron. Just like the car companies, big buisness doesn’t care if a product is sound and useful, Bigger, Better & Newer is what sells.

  2. RjZ said,

    May 16, 2006 at 16:16

    I am not one to assume that big business doesn’t care if it’s useful. Indeed they care very much that people think it is. The sad part for me is that apparently, not enough people like the form factor as much as I do.

    It was great too, putting my little laptop, vertical in a thin case and still having room for accessories. Laptops used to be this small, before people felt they needed to lug around 17″ screens.

    Good news is that just because there is a new one out, doesn’t mean mine just broke. I’ll keep using it for sometime, I imagine.

  3. tim r said,

    May 18, 2006 at 14:43

    If you would just come over to the dark side, Ron, you get whatever case you want…

    just kidding.

  4. RjZ said,

    May 18, 2006 at 22:38

    you may be kidding, but of course you raise a valid point. apple is still no coommodity. while you and most pc users see no difference between a dell, a toshiba or a sony, I lock my self into this narrow platform.
    indeed the reason I would even lament the death of this form factor says something about the quality and form factor of the apple. it’s the size, the simple uobtrusive lines, the way it works, without rebooting wheb I open the cover and effortlessly sleeps when I close it again
    surely ps do this as well, but it concerns me that I never see anyone using them this way
    while pc users quibble over a few MHz mac users debate the finer subtleties of case size, secure in the knowledge that at least the computer will be a pleasure, and not a chore to use.
    i’d have more choice in form factor if I went overr to the ‘dark side’ but i’d have to choose from cluttered to confusing, from cheap to needleswsly flashy.
    i’ll continue to make my choice between works great a bit larger than I wish and still works great years later. still I hope Apple is listening to us!!

  5. tim r said,

    June 28, 2006 at 15:38

    Years ago, it was the failure of Apple to produce a nice laptop that first seduced me to the dark side–my first non-Apple computer was a Toshiba 1200 laptop which I chose over the ugh! Mac Portable.

    I do think that the minor differences between Wintel models matter though. For example–I hate touchpads! I vastly prefer the little clitstick thing on the home ow–which seems to primarily be available on Thinkpads. They are comparatively damned expensive, but fortunately they keep making nice solid lightweight computers. I’m with you–I’l generally take weight, battery life and size over more MhZ and larger screens. I’ve got desktops for that stuff.

    As for pleasure, I do agree the mac interface is nicer windoze. But then again, I like GNUStep even more.

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