Daniel Eran Dilger
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Podcast: The New MacBooks

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Gene Steinberg of the Tech Night Owl podcast invited me to join Peter Cohen and Evan Gross on his weekly show this week. I talked about the new MacBooks, the tech media’s infatuation with all things cheap, and whatever else fell out of my mouth. You can hear for yourself and subscribe to the Tech Night Owl RSS feed at:

The Tech Night Owl LIVE with Gene Steinberg

Oct 16, 2008 episode:

Oct 16 08
Earlier episodes I’ve participated on:

Oct 2 08
July 31 08
June 12 08
May 1 08
Mar 20 08
Jan 31 08
Jan 3 08
Nov 8 07
Sep 20 07
Aug 9 07
Jun 14 07
Apr 26 07
Mar 1 07
Jan 11 07

  • Derek Z.

    Long time visitor, first time poster…After listening to you talk about the state of FireWire in the new Mac laptops, I felt I should share some of my thoughts.

    While I can agree that from time to time older technologies must be trimmed from devices to make way for the new, FireWire was not a technology that needed to go. Compare the removal of FireWire to that of the floppy: at the time, the floppy was more of a nuisance than a necessity. There were much better methods of storing and transferring data from device to device. The floppy drive drained the resources of the equipment that utilized it, not to mention that it took up an inordinate amount of space. The same cannot be said of FireWire. While USB2 is impressive in its capabilities, it is in no means a replacement for FireWire. Future versions of FireWire (800, 1600, 3200) may be appropriate replacements for FireWire 400, yet FireWire was removed unilaterally from the Macbook. The inclusion of FireWire does not overburden the resources of the laptop, and whether or not a laptop has FireWire has no significant impact on the abilities of said laptop.

    In your piece, you mentioned the design and space requirements of the new laptop. I can agree that the space is limited, and adding a FireWire port is more than just having space available on the side of the case. In order to include a FireWire port, many considerations must be taken. This process would include design, engineering, manufacturing, etc., etc. It is not as simple as adding a port, yet when the laptop was initially conceived, the inclusion of FireWire was not a priority, meaning this was some time coming. In all that time, could not another solution be found?

    Honestly, this feels like it was a cost cutting measure. Why give our customers something they want for free, when we can charge $700 for it?

    According to Wikipedia, the IEEE 1394c specification includes the ability to have a dual switching Ethernet/FireWire port which accepts RJ-45 size plug. If Apple were to implement this solution for providing FireWire, it would blow the entire space argument out of the water. The motherboard may require a slight modification, and a controller chip may need to be replaced, but otherwise the laptop would be nearly identical to how it is today.

    Now I know what some critics would claim, that the $999 Macbook still has a FireWire port, as well as a faster processor, and can hold just as much memory, etc., etc., blah, blah… The point of purchasing a newly created laptop is to utilize the newer technologies which manifest themselves in newer equipment. As a customer, I shouldn’t be relegated to older technology, just because the newer technology is missing a feature which should be included.

    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced this was a cost cutting measure. This is a hard realization to swallow considering that Apple is known for providing premium quality products. Yet, it is the only one that makes sense. Shame on Apple – the customer’s need should come first.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @Derek: I think FireWire was removed from the MacBook in order to artificially differentiate it from the MacBook Pro. After all, the new models are nearly the same machine – both have the aluminum case, backlit keyboard, glossy display, magnetic latch, multi-touch trackpad, similar processors, etc. Pretty much the only major difference is the size of the display.

    So, I think they removed FireWire from the MacBook to push people toward the Pro. Now, even if the MacBook would have been a better value for you, you *have* to opt for the Pro if you have any FireWire devices.

    I have a PowerBook G4. I chose it because it offered a lot of functional advantages over the iBook – a bigger screen, faster processor, more video memory, larger hard drive, aluminum casing, superior keyboard with backlighting. But were I in the market for a new notebook today, I would definitely get the MacBook over the MBP and save the money, as the lines have blurred and those advantages have either disappeared or been reduced to a minimum.

    All except the FireWire, that is. Fortunately for me, the only FireWire device I have is an iSight (unneeded on the new Macs), so lack of it on the MacBooks wouldn’t affect me. But I think it would affect many other people, who would otherwise definitely choose the MacBook over the MBP.

    Think about it – if Apple can bring all of the “pro” features over to the regular MacBook line, why does the Pro exist? I don’t think it needs to anymore. So this is their way of ensuring that people will still buy an MBP.