Why Apple Needs a Pro Ultra-Portable Again
And Why Signs are Pointing to Such, Along with a Definite Return?


by Joe Leo, Columnist


COMMENTARY: 12.7.07-- Everyone keeps talking about what will probably be the hottest ticket at Macworld Expo 2008. No, not the one that gets you in to see Steve-o, but the product that may become known as the MacBook nano, or the mini MacBook Pro. And while rumors have been flying about the return of the ultra-portable Mac notebook for quite some time?

That rumor may have finally found a place to land, with breaking news from a CNBC report yesterday afternoon, which immediately became the top story on Mac news sites everywhere.

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I started writing this piece back on November 19th, just days after acquiring my newest Mac portable--a "new" aluminum 15-inch PowerBook G4--with plans to publish it this month as a lead up to Macworld Expo 2008 (which by the way, we will be covering again this year). Being a 12-inch PowerBook G4 user and loving every aspect of it since day one, the topic was?

Why Apple needs a MacBook Pro mini (or MacBook Pro nano) in its notebook line-up.

So of course, with the news yesterday that Apple is indeed creating a new ultra-portable Mac, or, well, at least a "sub-notebook" Mac, it bumps up the need to publish this story. Like today. (Funny thing is, I totally missed that report and didn't come across it until I read about it on the other Mac news sites... usually I'm watching CNBC and passing on the news to all of you!).

Rumors have flown about this since the day the MacBook "non-pro" edition came out and replaced the 12-inch iBook and aluminum PowerBook G4 lines. It was a sad day for sub-notebook Apple computing. And a sad day for all those 12-inch PowerBook G4 users like me, who thought that logically, all the silver-clad portables would get an Intel-based replacement.

As we all know by now (if you haven't, lucky you, or, where have you been all these "years"?), the smallest powerhouse portable Apple ever created--along with its consumer-oriented brethren in the 12-inch iBook and its somewhat cherised "son of Pismo" behemoth, er, brother, the 14-inch iBook (the Pismo is another powerhouse story)--made an exit in 2006.

Hello, I'm a Mac. And I'm a, what the heck is that huge thing?? Oh, it's a MacBook. Gross. With a glossy screen and a gigantic 13.3" LCD display. That's our replacement? Yup.

Apple decided to get rid of the iBook consumer line and introduce in its place, the "MacBook" line sans "Pro" moniker to differentiate it from the, well, Pro line (duh). It was made in white like the iBook, but as a go between, instead of having a small and big version of it, they went down the middle and created just one. A 13-inch MacBook. Oh yes, it also came in black.

(The black was supposedly to make it look more "pro"-like, but that wasn't enough for us!).

Steve Jobs didn't want too many distinctions in the notebook line. 12-inch, 14-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch. Thus the 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch models, the first on the list being for the consumer (or pro on a budget... it was well-equipped), and the last two for the professional.

The underlying theme there was there were "too many" out there before. Two 12-inch models, the iBook and the ultra-portable PowerBook G4, the 14-inch dud in the high-end iBook, and then the 15 and 17-inch PowerBook G4s. In an effort to streamline the whole product offering, they kept the 15-inch as the standard, the 17-inch as the high end, and on the low end?

The then new 13-inch MacBook line, consolidating three models into one. The 12-inch and 14-inch iBook models, and the beloved 12-inch PowerBook G4. And that's when the world stopped spinning for all the "mini-Me" professional users out in Apple land. No more tiny powerhouse--nor no new replacement at that--and we were forced to stick with our old hat.

But with the report from CNBC yesterday afternoon, maybe our time has finally come?


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