Apple’s New MacBook Air Builds On iPad

The new Apple MacBook Air, and OS X Lion show Apple is going even more mobile, following the iPad and iPhone’s success

Apple’s MacBook Air, originally launched as one of the world’s thinnest laptops, has slimmed down further. The launch event also previewed a new look operating system for Macs, which borrows the App Store concept from the iPhone and iPad.

The new Macbook Air comes in 13 inch and 11 inch versions, and tapers to 0.11 inches at its thinnest point. Using SSD storage, the laptops switch on instantly, have a seven hour working life, and a thirty hour standby time. Meanwhile OS X Lion, which will not be available till summer 2011, will capitalise on the success of the iPad, and include several features from its mobile operating system iOS, including an App Store for laptops.

MacBook Air is Macbook/iPad lovechild?

“We asked ourselves, what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?” Steve Jobs asked at the launch event. “This is the result,”he said, displaying the new MacBook Air.

“MacBook Air is the first of a new generation of notebooks that leaves behind mechanical rotating storage in favor of solid-state flash storage,” said Jobs in a statement. “We’ve taken what we have learned with the iPad—solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturisation and lightweight construction, to create the new MacBook Air.”

The focus on laptops, and the new features in OS X Lion demonstrated Apple’s move towards mobile. Lion, which will ship in Summer 2011, will feature a Mac App Store. It will also support full-screen apps, which launch from an iPad like home screen called Launchpad.

For those not wanting to wait for Lion, some of the new features will be launched on OS X Snow Leopard. The Mac App Store will be on Snow Leopard in three months. FaceTime, a video-conferencing application previously available only on iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. A beta version, which runs on the Snow Leopard version of OS X, is available in the App Store.

“Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac users will really like,” Jobs said in the statement accompanying Mac OS X Lion. The company is also introducing iLife ’11, with upgrades to iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand.

The App Store on the Mac was the “single biggest takeaway” from the announcement, according to analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co. But the thrust of the announcements re-emphasised how much of Apple’s spirit is invested in mobile.

“Apple is first and foremost “a mobile-device company,” said COO Tim Cook back in February. This was borne out when Apple released the iPad, which is the favourite tablet of eWEEK Europe’s UK readers, according to a recent poll. The company has also launched iPhone OS4, which met with market approval, despite the antenna problems of the iPhone 4 hardware, and was quickly followed by iOS 4.1 in September.

The 11-inch MacBook Air costs £849 or £999 for 64Gbyte or 128Gbyte versions, while the 13-inch version costs £1099 or £1399 for 128Gbyte or 256Gbyte versions.

Nicholas Kolakowski contributed to this article.