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The new MacBook is the iPad's spirit animal, ports and all

Michael Simon | March 13, 2015
We may never see a Multi-Touch Mac. What seemed inevitable back in 2010 is no closer to fruition than it was then--OS X and iOS may share certain design cues and UX elements, but they're as far apart as the've always been. Nothing about the Yosemite redesign suggests touch is being considered in the slightest, and if anything, OS X 10.10 moves the Mac further from converging with iPad, with things like Handoff and AirDrop creating a seamless sharing experience that adapts to their respective environments.

Form over function

The biggest knock on Apple's svelte new notebook is that it doesn't have enough expansion, a familiar refrain that we heard when the iPad launched five years ago. People have been yelling for Apple to add a USB port or memory card slot for as long as its been selling its tablet, but as the iPad has evolved it's become clear that most people don't really need those things. The iPad is about simplicity and efficiency, and extra ports and slots would only serve to complicate its value.

With the new MacBook, Apple didn't just shave some expandability like it did with the MacBook Air, it completely obliterated it, replacing all of its legacy ports with a single USB-C input that handles everything. It's very Lightning-like in its appearance and reversibility, and plugging it in is rather reminiscent of an iOS device.

Gone, too, is the nifty magnetic MagSafe latch, suggesting that Apple doesn't expect users to operate it while it's charging. MagSafe was designed to prevent stumbles while cords are draped across tables and desks, but that won't be an issue with the new MacBook. I can't remember ever using my iPad while it was plugged in, and despite less overall battery life than the Air, it still has plenty of juice to easily get people through a full day, even while traveling.

Adapters and drives are already being announced for the soon-to-be-industry-standard connection, but users who are looking for ways to expand the new MacBook will undoubtedly be frustrated for a while. Apple is happy to sell them an overpriced and somewhat bulky Multiport adapters for VGA and HDMI, but that's not the target audience. There's a reason Apple announced its new MacBook at the Apple Watch event; buyers will likely be using it as a companion, either to a more powerful Mac or an iPad. You might say it's the ultimate Handoff machine, and if Apple were to implement an iOS-like iCloud backup system on the Mac, many people would never have a reason to plug in a peripheral device.

Eye on the future

The new MacBook may be the most drool-worthy Mac Apple has ever made, but it's certainly not for everyone. The lack of ports is the most glaring obstacle, but there's also the cost factor. An entry price of $1,299 might not seem like much for the most cutting edge of Mac notebooks (design-wise, anyway), but considering you can get a 128GB LTE iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard for around $900, it could be a tough sell.

Besides, the MacBook name carries some weight and expectations of power and performance, and Apple's new notebook isn't exactly a screamer. Add the fact that it supplants the Air as the lightest laptop in line, and it's a wonder why Apple didn't opt to bring back the iBook moniker, both to eliminate naming clutter and confusion, and to cement the link to the iPad. (I know, the MacBook was the Intel transition iBook, but still, if Apple was going to recycle a name, it just seems like a better fit.)

 

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