Over two years ago, I wrote a review of the then-new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The headline: We’re Getting Very Close To The Perfect MacBook. “Very close” is the key phrase there. As great as that machine was/is, I knew it wasn’t perfection in laptop form. Yet.
In the intervening years, I’ve gone back-and-forth between using this 13-inch MacBook Pro and an 11-inch MacBook Air (my work machine). There are obvious and real benefits to each. In my mind, it’s been clear for a while: the absolute perfect machine would be a 12-inch MacBook with a Retina display. Basically, a combination of my two machines.
And, if a scoop by Mark Gurman is to be believed (and there’s no reason to believe it shouldn’t be, given his track record), such a machine nears. Kit Eaton did a nice job breaking down why this machine may very well be the pinnacle of laptops. A few points stand out:
Do you see where Apple’s going with this yet? The new Air is basically a screen, a keyboard and a pointing device controller crammed into as small and elegant a space as possible. And nothing else.
With this new machine, Apple will have essentially whittled down the MacBook to just the absolute fundamentals of a laptop. Any further reduction and you no longer have a laptop, you have a tablet.
You have the iPad.
There are camps that believe the MacBook and iPad lines will eventually merge. And there are those who believe this will never happen. I’m not sure we ever get a true merger, but I do believe that we will eventually see Apple settle on one “large screen” computing device (undoubtedly with different “flavours” of screen sizes). If and when Apple releases an iPad with a screen larger than the current 9.7-inch variety, the overlap will be even more clear.
“But they run different operating systems.”
True. And for this reason alone, I don’t see the MacBook or the iPad “losing” this battle and going away any time soon. We’re talking years. But, as Apple has proven time and time again, they’re willing to forsake nostalgia for the sake of a streamlined product line. I believe as the iOS devices continue to grow in power and reach, the MacBook will eventually fade into the sunset.
In its place will be an iPad (with an optional keyboard attachment) that can do everything the current crop of MacBooks can do. And more. And that belief is why I also believe this new MacBook will effectively be the last of its kind. As Eaton notes:
No, what I mean is the next Air is the full stop at the end of the laptop story, a story that Apple itself had significant roles in shaping thanks to other, earlier innovations and clever design decisions. If the next Air really is going to be as claimed by 9to5Mac, there is legitimately almost no direction left for the laptop to be taken in. It is the ultimate clamshell laptop, shorn of everything unnecessary and served up with Apple’s traditional design confidence and verve. Any other innovations, including touchscreens or detachable keyboards move beyond what we know of as a “laptop” and step into hybrid tablet/laptop territory.
The original MacBook Air was an incredible piece of industrial design — a stripping away of everything not absolutely necessary for computing. The optical drive, extraneous ports, etc. Nearly every computer manufacturer took cues (or blatantly copied) the innovations, and now nearly every popular laptop on the market looks like a MacBook Air in some way.
With this “MacBook Stealth”, Apple will move the bar forward again. At first, we’ll hear folks bitching about what’s missing. Then we’ll get competition mocking the machine. Yet that bitching and moaning will somehow magically convert into revenue for Apple and throngs of imitation machines in the years to come. The song will remain the same.
I suspect this new MacBook will be the last laptop I end up buying. Again, that doesn’t mean the MacBook is dying anytime soon, but I believe this will be the pinnacle of the product. We’ll get spec bumps for years to come. But it will be the long, slow fade we just witnessed with the iPod.
Some believe the iPad will never be able to take the mantle. I think that’s folly. The innovation there, with the chips in particular, is moving so fast that we’re going to have iPads as powerful as laptops very, very soon. Then it’s just a matter of continued software tweaks to get everyone comfortable with the conversion. Kids will grow up never having used a laptop.
Apple is about to whittle the MacBook down to perfection. Peak laptop. From there, there’s nowhere to go but to slowly disappear…
M.G. Siegler is a General Partner at Google Ventures based in London, where he primarily focuses on seed and early-stage investments. Read more about the author of this post here. This post originally appeared on Medium.
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