Tech journalist Harry McCracken has an excellent post up about the implications of the latest Macbook Air line. He noticed a bit in Apple’s press release that I had overlooked:
Apple® today unveiled an all new MacBook Air®, the first of a next generation of notebooks which will replace mechanical hard disks and optical drives with Internet services and solid state flash storage.
As McCracken notes, Apple is aiming to get rid of spinning platters and use all solid state memory storage sooner rather than later. That means a future with faster access to data and applications plus the “instant start-up” and sleep we already get on out iPads.
But I’m also intrigued by the reference to “Internet services” which could make the amount of storage you carry around with you much less relevant. We’ve been waiting and waiting for Apple to do something cloud-based with iTunes. Kent Anderson over at the Scholarly Kitchen blog has a good post about this today, noting some other companies like Netflix and Pandora that are moving more quickly to put the consumer at the center of their content rather than the other way around.
Amazon is leading the way with its digital video and Kindle ebook services. Both keep your content stored on Amazon’s servers so you can zap it into your local devices over and over (and for video, even watch it online anywhere with a browser). Even Amazon doesn’t let you do that with your music files, so there may be some rights issues with the record labels — that wouldn’t be a shocker.
And there is still so much more Apple could and should be doing with its MobileMe service. At $99 a year for just 20 GB of online storage (split between for email and iDisk storage), it’s no bargain. For another $49 you can bump storage up to 40 GB and up to a total of 60 GB for $99 extra, or almost $200 a year.
DropBox offers 50 GB of storage for $120. SugarSync offer 60 GB a year for $100 and 100 Gb for $150. And Google offers really, really cheap storage through GoogleDocs ($5 for 20 Gb, $100 for 400 GB and a whopping 1 TB for $256) though you can only use it through Docs, Picassa Web albums and Gmail. Amazon’s S3 is also pretty cheap ($1.80 per GB per year equal to $90 for 50 GB) and can be used in conjunction with a program like JungleDisk to mimic the auto-syncing of some of these other offerings.
So Apple is slowly moving towards a more cloud-based approach and the new MacBook Airs are a tiny step along the way. Rights holders like the record labels might be holding things back but eventually, it shouldn’t matter whether you download or stream your files, be it your latest resume, a new Batman comic or last year’s best picture winner.
p.s. if this post sounds familar, I’ve been making the same requests of Apple’s horrible MobileMe pricing for ages and last blogged about the state of online storage pricing back in January.