Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air - and Apple's future - 10 years ago today

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2018
When Steve Jobs showed off the MacBook Air to a collective gasp from the tech industry one decade ago, nobody could yet know its importance as a harbinger of Apple's future.




The original, teardrop-shaped MacBook Air was not long for this world. It was expensive, underpowered, prone to overheating, and came with a fiddly flip-down door that hid its meagre selection of ports.

None of that mattered.

The MacBook Air that Jobs slid with his characteristic flourish out of manila envelope was seemingly designed to be as much an object of lust and technical showpiece as it was a shipping product.
Like the now-famous song that came with it, the MacBook Air truly was "a new soul."
Its svelte physique was made possible in part by Apple's innovations in production-scale CNC machining, a practice now widely used but unheard of in consumer products of the day. The bespoke Intel chip whose descendents would later power an avalanche of ultrabooks was, for that moment in time, an unbeatable technological advantage.

Yes, it was Apple's way of saying "shut up about netbooks," but it wouldn't be until the 2010 release of the second-generation Air with better processor options and more ports that the laptop truly came into its own. That first MacBook Air was for something different - it was a coming out party.

It was a bold pronouncement of Apple's mobile-first future.




The company no longer saw people chained to a desk. It saw work (and play!) being done in the living room, on a beanbag, in a park, or in the sky.

To be sure, inklings of that vision were first revealed with the iPhone a year earlier. It took the MacBook Air, though, to fully articulate it.

That vision continues to flourish with the iPad, iCloud, larger iPhones, and the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil.

Today, the MacBook Air survives largely thanks to inertia. It never got a Retina display and has been surpassed as Apple's best thin-and-light option by the 12-inch MacBook and even the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Windows-based Ultrabooks perform acrobatics the Air could never dream of.

That means that when the MacBook Air is inevitably removed from shelves, few will mourn its loss as a product. Some of us, though, will remember it fondly as the standard bearer of a new era.
cornchip
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,490member
    The final iterations of the MBA were the best consumer macs ever.  The MacBook is not a worthy replacement for the MBA.
    It lives on not because of inertia, but because even with higher weight, generations older processor and an outdated screen, the MBA’s longer battery life, additional ports, superior keyboard, reliability and better price make it a vastly better value proposition. Especially for schools.
    I can honestly say I have never seen a MacBook outside a shop, while MBAs are everywhere.

    edit PS: I don’t have to wait until it is removed from shop shelves to mourn the loss of the MBA. The MBA/MacBook comparison is a symbol all on its own of the state of the Mac today. 


    One other thing to add to my rant: The iPad Pro could eventually replace the MBA, once it gets proper file management, and the ability to access peripherals as easily as a laptop (you know, widely used ports). iOS 11 helps, but the circle is still only one quarter closed.
    edited January 2018 curtis hannahGeorgeBMacdewmeh2pbrian greenbaconstangbigpicsksecjony0
  • Reply 2 of 44
    Frame of reference, (1996) 1400c, my best friend during Graduate School vs. (2014) 11" Air .


    wlymbaconstangcornchipuniscapewatto_cobracurtis hannahking editor the grategtrjony0
  • Reply 3 of 44
    When Steve Jobs showed off the MacBook Air to a collective gasp from the tech industry one decade ago, nobody could yet know its importance as a harbinger of Apple's future.

    ...

    ....

    Today, the MacBook Air survives largely thanks to inertia. It never got a Retina display and has been surpassed as Apple's best thin-and-light option by the 12-inch MacBook and even the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Windows-based Ultrabooks perform acrobatics the Air could never dream of.


    While todays machine are nice... IMO they are 90%-er machines and did not seem that way before. Don't need that this or that for one reason or another because only 10%(or what ever) use that feature. So in the end its a hunk a metal with poor keyboard and a great screen... and oodles of dongles! I mean come on--- Apple, you got rid of the magsafe!!! (granted there is a  3rd party version to use with TB3... another dongle!!!)

    bloggerblogbrian greenbaconstang
  • Reply 4 of 44
    I hope that they don't kill it -- although I admit that it looks that way.
    The MBA could fill that void left in the rush to the ultra thin & light laptop with few ports....
    ...  That may be old fashioned and I know that Apple doesn't go that way -- but I suspect that there are many who would welcome an updated version...
    baconstangbigpics
  • Reply 5 of 44
    Few will mourn its loss? I know a lot of people that are buying one now while it's still possible so they have one for the next six years or so. It still is a great laptop, relatively cheap, fast enough, and thankfully still without a glossy screen. Bought my second one last year and very happy with it. 
    baconstangbigpicswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 44
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,894member
    The 13" MacBook Air has the most pleasurable to use keyboard + trackpad combination of any computer I've ever used. The 13" MacBook Pro with Retina definitely has more oomph and better screen than the Air but it feels thick, heavy, and boxy compared to the Air. All portable computers have compromises but the ones intrinsic to the Air seem to be overall more tolerable than any other portable computer, which is why it soldiers on with a non-retina display but is still being purchased by many users. It's an awesome and well balanced design that with the simple addition of a retina display with thin bezel and decent CPU-GPU would remain a top seller for at least another 5 years. Hall of Fame worthy.
    bigpicswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 44
    aegeanaegean Posts: 109member
    Proud owner of 11-inch MBA 6,1, bought in Sep 2013. I just can't live without it. I spend almost 7-8 hours everyday on it. At work, at home, on the road, in the bathtub, everywhere and anywhere you can think of. There's absolutely no substitute of it and it saved my life at many places in different ways. Four years and battery still lasts 12 hours. I really wish if Apple continues it. I am willing to buy another one if they update it in the near future. Not to mention, I am perfectly happy without unnecessary ports.
    edited January 2018 baconstangwatto_cobraflashfan207lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 44
    What?! An article about the MacBook Air and there is no mention of Dell’s laughable Adamo? Which tried to compete with the Air but ended up being inferior and costing a whopping $2,800!!
    cornchipchiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 44
    kpomkpom Posts: 615member
    entropys said:
    The final iterations of the MBA were the best consumer macs ever.  The MacBook is not a worthy replacement for the MBA.
    It lives on not because of inertia, but because even with higher weight, generations older processor and an outdated screen, the MBA’s longer battery life, additional ports, superior keyboard, reliability and better price make it a vastly better value proposition. Especially for schools.
    I can honestly say I have never seen a MacBook outside a shop, while MBAs are everywhere.

    edit PS: I don’t have to wait until it is removed from shop shelves to mourn the loss of the MBA. The MBA/MacBook comparison is a symbol all on its own of the state of the Mac today. 


    One other thing to add to my rant: The iPad Pro could eventually replace the MBA, once it gets proper file management, and the ability to access peripherals as easily as a laptop (you know, widely used ports). iOS 11 helps, but the circle is still only one quarter closed.
    I see MacBooks all over the place. Mostly the colorful ones. That said, the 13” non-Touch Bar Pro is essentially the new 13” Air. Apple has said so themselves. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 44
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,382member
    I owned two MBA's.  I honestly don't know what the hate was with the USB door.  I loved it.  I rarely used any connectors when traveling so I liked that the ports were basically hidden from view.  Obviously, I was in the minority.

    I bought a new MBP with Touchbar and as superior as it is to all other notebooks I've ever owned (it's my 2nd MBP), I long for an updated MacBook Air with a Retina display.  Had they just put in a retina display, that would have been a good start.  I don't understand Apple's mentality for not updating the MBA to compliment the rest of their notebook offering.

    The MacBook is underpowered.  The MacBook Pro is heavier, and much more expensive.  The MacBook Air is perfect midrange Mac, in a crazy-light package which is what I wanted.  I ride a motorcycle every day and I just loved how my MBA made traveling that much easier.  The new MacBook Pros are much nicer on the weight, but it does make itself known when carried around for a while.

    I hope the MBA continues on and cared-for by Apple.  I still remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled it.  He has such flair when he unveiled it!
    watto_cobraGeorgeBMacmike1lolliverbigpics
  • Reply 11 of 44
    boeyc15 said:
    When Steve Jobs showed off the MacBook Air to a collective gasp from the tech industry one decade ago, nobody could yet know its importance as a harbinger of Apple's future.

    ...

    ....

    Today, the MacBook Air survives largely thanks to inertia. It never got a Retina display and has been surpassed as Apple's best thin-and-light option by the 12-inch MacBook and even the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Windows-based Ultrabooks perform acrobatics the Air could never dream of.

    While todays machine are nice... IMO they are 90%-er machines and did not seem that way before. Don't need that this or that for one reason or another because only 10%(or what ever) use that feature. So in the end its a hunk a metal with poor keyboard and a great screen... and oodles of dongles! I mean come on--- Apple, you got rid of the magsafe!!! (granted there is a  3rd party version to use with TB3... another dongle!!!)

    The third party magsafe options all suck and proves the point of why they got rid of it when switching to the standard USBC dual purpose port. It gets battery life like an ipad and nobody uses magsafe on ipad. 

    The dongles are only optional and for various use cases. Just like the ethernet port dongle on the entire line which nobody is whining about. 
    watto_cobraflashfan207curtis hannahlolliverfastasleep
  • Reply 12 of 44
    sflocal said:
    I owned two MBA's.  I honestly don't know what the hate was with the USB door.  I loved it.  I rarely used any connectors when traveling so I liked that the ports were basically hidden from view.  Obviously, I was in the minority.

    I bought a new MBP with Touchbar and as superior as it is to all other notebooks I've ever owned (it's my 2nd MBP), I long for an updated MacBook Air with a Retina display.  Had they just put in a retina display, that would have been a good start.  I don't understand Apple's mentality for not updating the MBA to compliment the rest of their notebook offering.

    The MacBook is underpowered.  The MacBook Pro is heavier, and much more expensive.  The MacBook Air is perfect midrange Mac, in a crazy-light package which is what I wanted.  I ride a motorcycle every day and I just loved how my MBA made traveling that much easier.  The new MacBook Pros are much nicer on the weight, but it does make itself known when carried around for a while.

    I hope the MBA continues on and cared-for by Apple.  I still remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled it.  He has such flair when he unveiled it!
    And it was hated and panned by the pundits for the usual Apple reasons — unpowered, not enough ports, too expensive, etc.. You could swap those articles for new machines today and not even know it. Now it’s beloved. 

     Just like the pundits critical of Face ID who said the exact same shit about Touch ID when it launched. The haters and critics just never learn. 
    nhtchiabaconstanganomechristopher126watto_cobraGeorgeBMacmike1lolliverfastasleep
  • Reply 13 of 44

    Whaaaat!? You’re crazy! It’s STILL a great machine. I have the early 2015 13” MBA and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would definitely pass up the Pros again (sorry, no MagSafe is the #1 deal-breaker for me) and buy another MBA if they updated it. Unfortunately, it seems they are doing away with the “Air” moniker so I will be buying another MBA soon as a backup while they’re still on the shelves. I hate how Apple quietly discontinues products and you only hear about it AFTER you can’t buy it anymore. At least give us a chance to run out and snatch up your remaining inventory, geez. Wouldn’t they rather sell it than take it back?

    baconstangbigpicswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 44
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,083member
    I got my wife a 2010 MBA and it is still working perfectly for her (I did upgrade the storage a couple of years ago, though). They were and are definitely great machines, but I do think some of you are way off base about the MacBook. I see them all over the place, mostly the Space Grey and Rose Gold varieties, and when I ask about them *nobody* complains about the keyboard -- the lower travel (in my experience playing with them, I don't own one as yet) is more than made up for with the larger keypads. What the owners I talk to generally remark upon is the great battery life and the fact that they don't need to bring any accessories with them: contrary to myth, most people don't bring anything but headphones and a power adapter with their notebooks most of the time, and you only need headphones with the MB because it really does last all day in real-world use. I'm annoyed that it costs more than the MBA -- this is probably what has kept me from buying one -- but I'm more than ready to slim down the weight of my also-fantastic and upgraded-to-heck 2012 MBP. It's (still!) a terrific machine now that it uses SSD rather than HD, but it's also a brick to carry around, plus I need to lug around the power adapter -- I only get about four hours or so off the battery anymore.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 44
    mike54mike54 Posts: 290member
    Apple was on a roll with Steve's last decade.
    And Tim has cut products, forgotten products and delayed products.
  • Reply 16 of 44
    I've been so happy with my 11" MBA 6,1.   With the i7 and the extra RAM it gives me everything I need from a portable.  It's light, quick, has the essential ports, the battery lasts and I really don't mind the screen.  It's the perfect complement to my iMac 5K.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 44
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,490member
    sflocal said:
    I owned two MBA's.  I honestly don't know what the hate was with the USB door.  I loved it.  I rarely used any connectors when traveling so I liked that the ports were basically hidden from view.  Obviously, I was in the minority.

    I bought a new MBP with Touchbar and as superior as it is to all other notebooks I've ever owned (it's my 2nd MBP), I long for an updated MacBook Air with a Retina display.  Had they just put in a retina display, that would have been a good start.  I don't understand Apple's mentality for not updating the MBA to compliment the rest of their notebook offering.

    The MacBook is underpowered.  The MacBook Pro is heavier, and much more expensive.  The MacBook Air is perfect midrange Mac, in a crazy-light package which is what I wanted.  I ride a motorcycle every day and I just loved how my MBA made traveling that much easier.  The new MacBook Pros are much nicer on the weight, but it does make itself known when carried around for a while.

    I hope the MBA continues on and cared-for by Apple.  I still remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled it.  He has such flair when he unveiled it!
    And it was hated and panned by the pundits for the usual Apple reasons — unpowered, not enough ports, too expensive, etc.. You could swap those articles for new machines today and not even know it. Now it’s beloved. 

     Just like the pundits critical of Face ID who said the exact same shit about Touch ID when it launched. The haters and critics just never learn. 
    To be fair the first version of the MBA was ordinary. Apple got it pretty close to perfect after that. If the next version of the MacBook fixes all its problems, the battery life, the keyboard, the low power, the lack of ports, the price, then you might have a point.
    Otherwise the MacBook is not the MBA people are looking for.
    baconstang
  • Reply 18 of 44
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,490member

    kpom said:
    entropys said:
    The final iterations of the MBA were the best consumer macs ever.  The MacBook is not a worthy replacement for the MBA.
    It lives on not because of inertia, but because even with higher weight, generations older processor and an outdated screen, the MBA’s longer battery life, additional ports, superior keyboard, reliability and better price make it a vastly better value proposition. Especially for schools.
    I can honestly say I have never seen a MacBook outside a shop, while MBAs are everywhere.

    edit PS: I don’t have to wait until it is removed from shop shelves to mourn the loss of the MBA. The MBA/MacBook comparison is a symbol all on its own of the state of the Mac today. 


    One other thing to add to my rant: The iPad Pro could eventually replace the MBA, once it gets proper file management, and the ability to access peripherals as easily as a laptop (you know, widely used ports). iOS 11 helps, but the circle is still only one quarter closed.
    I see MacBooks all over the place. Mostly the colorful ones. That said, the 13” non-Touch Bar Pro is essentially the new 13” Air. Apple has said so themselves. 
    Really? I have never seen one.  Somebody must be buying them I suppose. And no, the non touch bar 13 inch is not a replacement, based on price alone. And if I had to buy a lapto today, that would be th model I would get, if I didn’t jump ship to a HP spectre or Dell XPS.
  • Reply 19 of 44
    mike54 said:
    Apple was on a roll with Steve's last decade.
    And Tim has cut products, forgotten products and delayed products.
    Are you seriously suggesting Jobs didn’t cut products and have delays? Know your history man. 
    baconstangwatto_cobraGeorgeBMacmike1pscooter63lolliverfastasleep
  • Reply 20 of 44

    entropys said:
    sflocal said:
    I owned two MBA's.  I honestly don't know what the hate was with the USB door.  I loved it.  I rarely used any connectors when traveling so I liked that the ports were basically hidden from view.  Obviously, I was in the minority.

    I bought a new MBP with Touchbar and as superior as it is to all other notebooks I've ever owned (it's my 2nd MBP), I long for an updated MacBook Air with a Retina display.  Had they just put in a retina display, that would have been a good start.  I don't understand Apple's mentality for not updating the MBA to compliment the rest of their notebook offering.

    The MacBook is underpowered.  The MacBook Pro is heavier, and much more expensive.  The MacBook Air is perfect midrange Mac, in a crazy-light package which is what I wanted.  I ride a motorcycle every day and I just loved how my MBA made traveling that much easier.  The new MacBook Pros are much nicer on the weight, but it does make itself known when carried around for a while.

    I hope the MBA continues on and cared-for by Apple.  I still remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled it.  He has such flair when he unveiled it!
    And it was hated and panned by the pundits for the usual Apple reasons — unpowered, not enough ports, too expensive, etc.. You could swap those articles for new machines today and not even know it. Now it’s beloved. 

     Just like the pundits critical of Face ID who said the exact same shit about Touch ID when it launched. The haters and critics just never learn. 
    To be fair the first version of the MBA was ordinary. Apple got it pretty close to perfect after that. If the next version of the MacBook fixes all its problems, the battery life, the keyboard, the low power, the lack of ports, the price, then you might have a point.
    Otherwise the MacBook is not the MBA people are looking for.
    First I’ve heard of battery problems. If you don’t like an ultra portable with few ports, try one of the multiple alternatives. I prefer a MBP myself. 
    watto_cobra
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