The past, present and future

The MacBook Air was announced by Steve Jobs 15 years ago today, January 15, 2008. The event has become one of the most iconic Apple events of all time, thanks in large part to when Jobs pulled the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope.

Beyond the event itself, however, the MacBook Air has also become one of Apple’s most important and successful products – despite a few speed bumps along the way…

The announcement of the MacBook Air

The MacBook Air was announced as part of Apple’s keynote at Macworld Expo. Besides the MacBook Air, this Apple keynote also included the launch of the Time Capsule, updates to the iPhone and iPod touch, and more. The MacBook Air, however, stole the show, and its introduction was Steve Jobs at his best.

“We’ve built the world’s thinnest laptop without sacrificing a full-size keyboard or a full-size 13-inch display,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “When you first see the MacBook Air, it’s hard to believe it’s a high-performance laptop with a full-sized keyboard and screen. But he is.”

Here are the original entry-level MacBook Air specifications announced by Steve Jobs, which became available to consumers on January 29, 2008.

  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen with 1280×800 resolution;
  • 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 4 MB L2 cache;
  • 800 MHz front side bus;
  • 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM;
  • 80GB hard drive with sudden motion sensor;
  • Intel X3100 Graphics Multimedia Accelerator;
  • Micro-DVI port (includes Micro-DVI to VGA and Micro-DVI to DVI adapters);
  • integrated iSight video camera;
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR;
  • one USB 2.0 port;
  • a headset port;
  • Multi-touch trackpad with support for advanced multi-touch gestures including tap, scroll, pinch, rotate and swipe; and
  • 45 watt MagSafe power adapter.

Those were relatively decent specs for the time, but the MacBook Air was clearly limited by its thin and light form factor. After all, it was the “world’s thinnest laptop” according to Jobs, measuring 0.16 inches at its thinnest point.

The MacBook Air was also iconic for another reason: it was the first Mac offered by Apple with an optional 64GB solid-state drive…for an extra $1,300. As remarkable as it was for Apple to offer a MacBook with an SSD inside, early MacBook Air reviews generally indicated that the benefits didn’t outweigh the cost.

MacBook Air, 2008

In general, the first version of the MacBook Air got mixed reviews, with praise for the design and criticism for performance and battery life. Many reviewers, however, acknowledged the MacBook Air as the first step into the future of the MacBook line. Here are some fun lines we took from those early reviews:

Ryan Block of Engadget:

  • “It’s the thinnest and, if we can say, the sexiest laptop around.”
  • “The Air simply doesn’t have the power to be many users’ primary machine, while lacking many features considered a necessity by business travelers.”
  • “There simply isn’t a way to seamlessly replace all of an optical drive’s functionality at this time.”
  • “Perhaps the Air’s biggest side effect won’t be the abandonment of optical drives; for the rest of Apple’s customers, it’s only a matter of time before other Mac laptop lines benefit from the technical and engineering advancements that have made this device so thin and light. .

Macworld’s Jason Snell:

  • “As someone who uses their laptop’s optical drive so infrequently that I sometimes forget if its location is on the front or the side, I don’t really consider the lack of an optical drive to be a major omission. ”
  • “The MacBook Air is the slowest Mac in Apple’s current product line, although its Intel Core 2 Duo processor is fast enough for general use.”
  • “But once I slipped that three-pound laptop into my backpack and slung the bag over my shoulders, I realized that sacrificing storage space and CPU power was ultimately worth it. pain for me.”

Jackqui Cheng of Arstechnica:

  • “One way to think of the MacBook Air is as the largest, most capable iPod in Apple’s lineup — think of it as an iPod touch Extreme with a built-in keyboard.”
  • “I found the size and weight of the Air to be nothing short of absolutely delightful.”
  • “Despite all the Air’s (sometimes glaring) flaws, I plan to keep it and use it as my laptop from now on (perhaps with a hard drive upgrade in the near future, and absolutely with a battery upgrade when available).

Other reviews:

The future of the MacBook Air

After the MacBook Air’s initial introduction in January 2008, it became a mainstay in Apple’s laptop lineup. It was updated with a number of spec and performance improvements nine months later. It was redesigned with a tapered unibody case a year later, which also marked the introduction of a new 11.6-inch form factor.

The MacBook Air received regular spec bumps in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but went without updates in 2014 and received a minor spec bump in 2015. Two years later in 2017, the 13-inch MacBook Air got saw another performance boost, but the 11-inch model was discontinued.

The 9to5Mac take

Apple clearly lost sight of the MacBook Air around 2015 when it was overlooked as the company focused on the 12-inch MacBook instead. It saw scattered (and minor) performance improvements, no design changes, and was clearly on its way out.

This 2017 MacBook Air stayed in Apple’s lineup for a long time (perhaps too long). It wasn’t discontinued until July 2019, when it was the last laptop Apple sold without a Retina display and with USB-A ports and a backlit Apple logo.

The 12-inch MacBook was the star of the show starting in 2015, and it wasn’t until 2018 that Apple realized it might have made the wrong decision. By then, the MacBook Air had been pretty much the same design for eight years. That’s a long time for what many considered Apple’s most popular laptop.

One thing that I think Apple has learned over the years is that the name “MacBook Air” has a lot of power. The attempt to phase out the MacBook Air in favor of the 12-inch MacBook was an obvious failure (it wasn’t the only failure of the MacBook line at that time).

Macbook Air

But starting in 2018, Apple started making changes. The 12-inch MacBook received its last major update in June 2017, and Apple unveiled a major update for the MacBook Air just over a year later. This MacBook Air finally offered a Retina display, a new design that retained the iconic thinness and lightness, and notable performance improvements.

The 12-inch MacBook was unceremoniously discontinued on July 9, 2019. There are rumors it could return, but this time alongside the MacBook Air – not as a replacement.

In 2020, the MacBook Air became the first Apple laptop to move from Intel to Apple Silicon, alongside the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple Silicon proved to be a game changer for the MacBook Air, allowing Apple to pack more power and efficiency into the machine than ever before.

m2-macbook-air

In 2022, the MacBook Air was redesigned to ditch the iconic tapered design in favor of a flat-edged unibody form factor. This redesign also saw the introduction of the M2 chip inside, for a further improvement in performance and efficiency, as well as the return of MagSafe for charging.

Looking ahead, the future of the MacBook Air is brighter than ever. Apple Silicon has proven that even a small and light computer like the MacBook Air can deliver incredible performance and battery life without compromise. There are rumors that Apple might even expand the MacBook Air lineup to include a new 15-inch model in 2023.

The MacBook Air has come a long way in the past 15 years, despite some mid-stream neglect. Hopefully Apple has learned its lesson and the MacBook Air is a well-supported option in the Mac lineup for years to come.

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