When it was announced, there was a load of grumbling. It doesn't have any ports, there's no optical drive, I need to buy more dongles, it's slow; the list went on and on. It seemed that what people really wanted was a direct 12'' PowerBook replacement: a 12'' MBP with everything the PowerBook had.
Well, you know what happened instead.
That really bugged me for a while, because I couldn't help thinking about how Apple made such a seemly stupid mistake.
And then it hit me like a paper cut. (ha) It's because a 12'' MBP really wouldn't work for Apple.
Think about this from the standpoint of someone who really doesn't understand computers.
It is amazingly easy to find which Apple product would fit you. Unlike say, a Sony VAIO XPFE13OEP12345LOL, Apple products all have friendly names and are very distinct from each other.
I'll sum up Apple's product line here:
The Mini, iMac, and Mac Pro all have very specific niches: cheap, all in one, lots of power.
It's the same with the iPods: there's the cheap Shuffle, tiny Nano, expansive Classic, and Wi-Fi Touch.
Each model has a specific purpose. Anyone could walk into an Apple store and find what they need. Compare that to the convoluted PC market!
What about their laptops? The MacBook is their base model. It's cheaper than the Pro and is less fast and has a smaller screen. It's easy to make the choice between the two.
What if they did introduce a 12'' MBP? Where would it fit? It would probably cost more than the MacBook, but it would have a smaller screen. Would your mom understand that? It really wouldn't make sense!
The Air is a totally different category from the other MacBooks. It's the world's thinnest laptop; anyone can understand that! Who cares if it doesn't have this or that-- there is absolutely no confusion. If it's for you, fine. If not, too bad.
The other reason behind the Air is because they're Apple. They are the makers of the iPhone. Everybody on the planet knows about the iPhone. Now, they're also the makers of a laptop that's the world's thinnest. The average person can understand this and will be amazed.
Nobody besides the people already on these forums would care if Apple released a 12'' MBP.
I have had kids come up to me in school and ask me about the Air. They don't care that the Air lacks FireWire, because they don't know what the hell FireWire is in the first place. They-- and every other average person, every other potential Apple customer-- have no idea that Sony or Toshiba also make tiny laptops. They are part of 90% of the Windows users; they are adults afraid of computers, they are teenagers that use MySpace. And to them, there would be nothing special about a 12'' MBP.
And that is why the MacBook Air.
But what about the 12'' MBP whiners? Well, I think that it's pretty clear that the next MacBooks/ MBPs will be much smaller than the current ones.