MacBook Air Is Still Alive…

… but it’s clearly on life support.

My 4 year old MacBook Pro died a little while ago, and I’ve been getting by with the Acer Chromebook R13. It’s good for about 90% of what I do. For example, I’m writing this post on my Chromebook. But when it comes to photo editing, working with Chromebook is still limited.

So I was eager to see what Apple had to offer the MacBook today at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Jose. And I watched it live on YouTube. Google’s Youtube.

It was rumored Apple would kill off the much loved MacBook Air today. The popular Air hadn’t received any updates since 2015, and since then Apple has introduced the lighter 12 inch MacBook and the 13 inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. So the writing seemed to be on the wall that one of these would become Apple’s lower cost offering. (Lower, not low. Apple doesn’t sell cheap computers. Part of the brand identity is to sell premium priced products.) But both the 12 inch MB and the 13 inch MBP are more expensive than the already expensive Air. And that’s why customers still prefer the MacBook Air. For many, it’s good enough and still carries the Apple brand.

For cruising on the boat, I preferred the Air for it’s lower power consumption while still being productive in the real world. I also don’t like that Apple is in the habit of removing physical ports from it’s other MacBooks. For my purposes that makes them less practical.

The MacBook Air today received only a very minor upgrade. It was barely mentioned during the keynote. And Apple’s press release only had one line: “Apple today also updated the 13-inch MacBook Air with a 1.8 GHz processor.” That’s it. A slight bump in speed. The processor was upgraded from 1.6 GHz to 1.8 GHz. A processor which was available more than 2 years ago when they chose the 1.6 GHz. No upgrade to the substandard screen. No increase in RAM. No increase in storage. No update to the physical connections. No price reduction. At $1000, it’s an expensive 2 year old laptop with already outdated technology. But it’s still the least expensive MacBook. So people will buy it.

Apple did cut $200 from the price on the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. It went from US$1,500 to US$1,300. Another signal the Air is probably on it’s way out.

Despite the poor screen resolution, the Air would suit my needs for photo editing. Especially if I connected a separate screen. But I was hoping for more. Much more. And with the writing on the wall, I have to wonder how many more years (months?) it will be around and supported by Apple and 3rd party vendors.

Interestingly, Apple showcased the iOS 11 for the iPad that will be released to the general public this fall as a free upgrade. It’s promising with functions more like a laptop OS. It will have multitasking, drag and drop, and perhaps most importantly for some, access to his files, with a new files app. That, in itself, is significant and a major step forward as it would now allow me to access my files on the iPad and more importantly, on Google Drive, Dropbox, and other third party cloud storage providers.

Add Affinity Photo for iPad, which was showcased during today’s keynote (and available immediately), and an iPad Pro with iOS 11, a keyboard, and an Apple Pencil, might be the answer for me. Heck, it might be a better answer than the MacBook Air.

Until my MBP died, I had been using Affinity Photo. It easily replaced Photoshop. After spending thousands of dollars on Adobe products over the years, I felt betrayed when they went the subscription route. The onstage demo of Affinity Photo on the iPad Pro at the WWDC 2017 was impressive.

10.5-inch iPad Pro Price Breakdown
iPad Pro Wi-Fi 256GB: US$749.
Apple Pencil: US$99.
Smart Keyboard: US$159.
Total: US$1,007. < Essentially the same as the base MacBook Air with 128GB, when purchased in the U.S.

Here in Canada, the base MacBook Air is C$1200. The iPad Pro outfitted as described above, is C$1,347. The C$147 more than a MacBook Air.

So, better screen (HD Retina), touchscreen, faster processor, more memory, more compact, for the same price (if you live in the U.S.).

Go to the Apple website and the product you will see on the homepage is the iPad Pro. That’s just another indication that Apple’s message about their future focus is about iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad.

For me the iPad and other tablets have always been media consumption toys. Nice to have, but not necessary. With today’s announcements, for the first time, I’m starting to buy into Apple’s premise that an iPad can be a suitable replacement for a laptop and become a real-world productivity tool.

These are WWDC 2017 keynote highlights. 2.5 hours shrunk down to 19 minutes.