Everyone’s tossing around their own wish-lists for the future of Apple’s iBook and PowerBook lines in the Intel era. Here’s my take on the matter - it’s slightly different from most. Almost all the speculation and fantasising that I have read assumes that Apple will keep the product matrix as it is, but simply introduce new models in the same slots.
I’d like to argue that there’s a case for three distinct lines of laptops. Here’s my thinking:
The iBook has always been a great budget laptop and it should remain so. It’s rugged enough for school kids and cheap enough that almost everyone I know who is non-technical but wants to get into computers feels able to afford and approach one. I say Apple should keep the iBook line as the clearly-demarcated low-end portable. Of course it should be a competitive product, but keeping a low entry-level is, in my opinion, a good thing.
PowerBook Nano and PowerBook Ultra
The PowerBook has an incredible pedigree in the mobile space, and Apple should continue to capitalise on this. It seems to me that high-end laptop use is beginning to bifurcate. On one hand, you have the true Road Warrior - the person who is more familiar with the interior of a Boeing 737 than that of their own car, who is frequently staying in hotels, hopping on and off wi-fi, always hunting for a power socket in an airport concourse. In my current job, I am that kind of person.
On the other hand, there’s the people who want a laptop that’s almost equivalent to a desktop machine, except that you can fold it up and put it in a backpack. People who are editing video on the go in Final Cut, managing a photoshoot in Aperture or capturing audio with Logic.
On no authority or evidence other than my own experience, I speculate that the former group might well be willing to trade off speed and certain other features against things like longer battery life, lighter weight and greater connectivity. On this basis, I suggest that it might be time to split the PowerBook line into two subtypes to address these two user communities.
The PowerBook Nano is my name for the Road Warrior’s PowerBook, the spiritual successor to today’s 12″ model. Going directly against the Sony Vaio TX line, the PowerBook Nano would be available with specifications like the following:
- Choice of 11″ or 13″ widescreen displays
- 80Gb and 120Gb hard drive options
- A build-to-order option of having two batteries instead of an internal optical drive (which could then be added as an optional peripheral extra)
- Really, really, really good wi-fi reception
- A graphics card that is at least capable of supporting Aperture
- An Apple-designed port replicator solution
- A built-in iSight camera would also be one less thing to pack (or forget to pack)
- Exotic weight-saving materials
Given the target market, I would be prepared to sacrifice some or all of the following to save space and/or weight:
- S-Video port
- Firewire 400 port (although I’d still like a FW800 port for backups)
- DVI port (replacing it with VGA)
I’d also toy with the idea of an optional but built-in 3G wireless modem, but it’s possibly a bit early for that.
The PowerBook Ultra subtype would be the power-hungry Pro App user’s dreamland. Here, we’re looking at features like:
- 15″ and 17″ displays. A 19″ would be the ultimate laptop porn, but is it even feasible? Remember that we were all shocked at the 17″ PowerBook when it came out - it seems routine now.
- Highly capable graphics cards with dual-link DVI support
- Fast hard drives
- A built-in multi-format media card reader for photographers
- All the optical drive options (possibly even Blu-Ray?)
- All the video output options that a pro video editor could want
Personally, I’ll be first in line for a PowerBook Nano if such a product ever materialises. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Craving for a new PowerBook? Would you like that in Small or Large?