Me, Mini-Me, Mini Attention Spans and Mini-Laptops


After a couple of days’ wrestling with my work inbox and perusal of numerous attachments in the kind of stupefied zombie-like state that non-parents can only achieve by, well, becoming parents to a little bundle of wailing joy with a two-and-a-half hour nightly feeding cycle, I find myself in the rather sorry state of having to write piecemeal, tapping away a sentence at a time as my neurons sway drunkenly from side to side inside my skull, somewhat like a bunch of inebriated lemmings stumbling all over each other in their urge to find some bottomless pit to jump into.

With my attention span firmly in the “ooh shiny” end of the timescale, it would be hard to express any sort of opinionated view of the Apple news landscape if it weren’t for its current dreariness – after all, what can you expect when luminaries such as Gruber can find little else to do but comment upon the Eee PC’s battery life, not just once, but twice?

Still, he managed to lead me to David Weiss’ essay on how we view our own knowledge, which included my favorite Descartes quote on good/common sense.

I suppose it’s karmic compensation for circling the sub-mini-notebooks topic without diving in. I’ve been wondering if such a device fits my newfound “let’s dip into the net before the kid wakes up” lifestyle, and finding it hard to avoid musing where Apple stands on all this.

After all, when Asus was playing in the sandbox all by themselves, it was pretty safe to ignore. But when HP spat out the Mini-Note, I started taking notice1 – these days there is more hype floating around regarding these devices than Apple laptops, and with good reason:

It’s good, solid consumer backlash from years of overweight, over-featured and crap-filled laptops that have far too much computing power than anyone really needs – unless, of course, they actually wanted a desktop instead of a tethered boat anchor in the first place.

With most interesting stuff “in the cloud” these days and my long time interest in network computing and similar stuff2, it makes perfect sense to me to one day get rid of most of my computers (except a nice desktop I can access remotely with standard protocols) and use a lightweight, “disposable” laptop of sorts that would let me leave stuff running on my desktop and hop back to it at a moment’s notice.

Yes, even if none of them are Macs. The Air, for all its technological prowess, lacks a decent remote access solution that will let you borrow a more than a desktop machine’s disc drive – and given Apple’s tendency to create “fat” platforms with lots of frilly stuff on a client, I don’t think that is forthcoming3.

Still, here’s my Eur.0.02 regarding these mini-laptops – simple, lean, light devices with SSD storage will win this one, since what people want in laptops is instant boot/suspend/resume and good battery life, and you can’t get that while lugging around a conventional disk drive (let alone one loaded with Vista).

And I don’t really think Apple will want to play in this sandbox (at least not by the same rules, of course). With current conventional laptop margins hovering at around 5% and these mini-notebooks raking in something between 10-15% (thanks to massive availability of DVD player size LCDs and other standard parts), Apple will hold on to the profitable niche of those who want more, in both style and substance.

And no, I don’t think there will be an Apple webpad springing forth from the iPhone platform, or a cheaper Air (what would they call it – MacBook Vacuum?). Apple’s not really into managing roadmaps for multiple form factors4.

As to the current contenders on what is fast being termed a “race to the bottom”, given the rave reviews of the hardware (all of which bitched about Vista being pre-installed), I may well have a go at the Mini-Note myself, if there is any chance of the Linux version reaching Portugal.

Mind you, I’d probably rip out Linux and install XP – all I want is enough flash storage to hold the OS, a text editor and Citrix, plus some way to reach my home desktop5 – which would make it tremendously easier to get stuff done throughout the constant interruptions of my new daily (or should I say nightly?) lifestyle.

And yeah, given a decent mobile thin client solution, I would probably even switch away from the Mac – and it’s not an April Fools. I like to plan ahead…

Care to check where this link leads to?

Anyone at HP (or Asus, for that matter) want to write a success story about a Mac un-switcher? Here’s your chance, guys.

1 See my notes, complete with spiffy image gallery I’ve been meaning to write about.

2 Like remote displays – more on that specific topic later, when I have had more sleep and the lemmings come back without a headache.

3 The Mac ethos is all about it being your own, standalone, individual computer that holds your life – an offshoot of Steve’s desire to control every little aspect of what lies before him – as such, thin clients and network computing are too grey and corporate (and require surrendering too much control) to be of interest to “Apple”:Apple.

4 As the checkered history of products like the Cube and the mini will readily attest.

5 Maybe NX, if they’ve managed to shake the cruftiness out of it.


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