Selective Hardware Usability

by Tanner Godarzi Mar 03, 2008

Apple’s introduction of the MacBook Air has done what few computer manufacturers normally do by removing a vital component. They’ve opted to rely on hardware residing on a second computer to make up for what’s not included. What can be viewed as a hindrance is the beginning of something revolutionary.

I’ve previously railed on the MacBook Air for being an overpriced ultra portable failing to compete with the Mac portables when it came down to raw specs. Sure, it’s very thin and easier to lug around than a regular MacBook and its Pro counterpart, but its advertised features (or lack of) could lay the groundwork for something much better than toting a laptop in a manila envelope (because we all base our computer purchases on how easily we can mail it off).

What I’m talking about is the ability for users to select which hardware components they want to use in unison with another Mac. Apple is already trying the concept with the MacBook Air remote disc feature in which you can use another computer’s optical drive to read CDs and DVDs. The irony is that you can’t install Windows and you must carry a CD containing the needed drivers for it to work, but who says this can’t be expanded to other Macs as well?

Of course the biggest hindrance is bandwidth constraints, which explains the lack of DVD playback with the MacBook Air’s remote disc feature, but the stepping stones are being laid for a networked digtal hub. Apple rarely refers to the Mac as a computing platform by itself, but a piece of the digital hub. This can be beneficial in many ways, the most prominent being your Macs, iPods, iPhones, and even Apple TV accessing the same content and data from one central source. The end result is slimmed down systems that have no need to have redundant hardware meant to store the same data, exactly how the MacBook Air is meant to be.


  • What you’re basically talking about is thin-client computing and it’s not exactly revolutionary.  I’m not convinced that’s the intent of the MBA.  It’s just another example of Jobs & Co sacrificing function for form.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Hi Beeblebrox. I don’t think its thin client computing. It’s a new way of looking at something that a few people have been wondering about.

    The MacBookAir has a smaller hard disk, slower speed, and no DVD. Many people have been wondering out-loud (on podcasts etc) whether they could synchronise their desktops with the Airs… giving the air a subset of their documents, their music, their photos, whatever.

    Tanner has, interestingly, thought of it as “what bits of my computer do I really have to have in my hands?”. Further examples - is my old Mac’s DVD drive a valid drive for my Air? Is my TimeCapsule hard disk a valid huge hard disk for my Air - so when I’m at home EVERY indication I have is that I have a 500GB hard disk (even when travelling, could “back to my mac” access the TimeCapsule?)

    Not an entirely new idea, but another way of looking at the future of lighter computing.

    And… perhaps… if the computer has virtually no processing power at all, no hard disk - just a screen/keyboard/trackpad/wireless connection… then you get back to “Thin Client”.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Mar 06, 2008 Posts: 228
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