The slender, 11-inch MacBook Air may be the rage for consumers, but business owners may find its a tad too high for the office. So does that mean the MacBook Air is doomed to be a toy for an executive rather than an average employee? I'd say it's likely.
The $1199 price is for 2GB of RAM and a 1.4GHz processor. If fully upgraded to something approaching modernity, the price goes up to $1399 and all the way to $1799 for the 13-inch version. (Spring for the extra 2GB of RAM since it can't be upgraded later.)
That's a lot of money to shell out for each employee (I have an overpriced Sony VAIO Z series customized laptop, so I know what I'm talking about.). One of the main reasons many businesses decided to invest in the iPad was that its price was much more competitive. Paying $499 is still a full $500 cheaper than a bare-bones MacBook Air, which has only 64GB of flash storage. (Apple didn't even send out the $999 version to be reviewed--enough said.)
True, the MacBook Air is light and highly portable at only 2.3 pounds, but so are netbooks--and cheaper netbooks make more sense to an IT department looking to purchase 10 for the office. While Apple may have wanted the MacBook Air to bridge the gap between the iPad and MacBook for businesses,its price is the same or even higher than the MacBook.
In comparison, Apple's original laptop is heavier at almost 5 pounds, but the $999 low-end MacBook model gives users 250GB of storage on its hard drive, a longer battery life, and a faster processor. If you venture out of Apple hardware, the bargains get even better: the HP Slate starts at $799 for similar specs; Best Buy is selling a Dell Inspiron laptop for $749 with 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive, and there's also the $349 Toshiba Mini Netbook with 1GB of memory and a 250GB hard drive.
Some employees may need a high-performance, portable laptop because their work requires frequent travel. While it's true that the ultra-thin MacBook Air gets to stay in your bag at airport security--courtesy of a recent Transportation Security Administration decision--that and saving a few ounces aren't enough to justify buying a laptop with so-so specs and a high price tag.
One of the biggest obstacles for the MacBook Air is the professional world's reliance on the Windows platform. While business owners may toy with the MacBook Air at the Apple Store, they will still buy their business computers pre-loaded with Microsoft software. It's cheap, easy, and has been done that way for years.
Until Apple can compete with Microsoft on that level, no amount of hype will push a Mac into the forefront of the business world. While Apple's aspirations may be for the MacBook Air to go into business, right now businesses can't afford it.
[Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.]