Neither Dell nor Hewlett-Packard nor Sony have laptops that compete directly with the 2.3-pound, 11.6-inch MacBook Air. Is this a new market segment that those three laptop leaders and others will have to address?
Apple has a knack for creating new markets, the iPad being the most recent example. Though not as groundbreaking or broadly market-defining as the iPad, the smaller Air is clearly unique: wrapped in aluminum, while considerably lighter than a typical 3-pound 11.6-inch laptop. And it packs higher-end silicon--and better performance--than Netbooks. (I spent some time in three different Apple stores in the Los Angeles area right after the new Airs were announced, and from what I saw, the 11.6-inch MBA elicited the most oohs and aahs--hands down.)
I would submit that the Air has wedged itself (pun intended) into an elite sub-2.5-pound laptop segment where little direct competition currently exists. There are hordes of 10-inch class Netbooks out there. But, again, a $350 Windows 7-based Netbook is a very different class of laptop. Then there are products like Dell's 11.6-inch Inspiron M101z. But that is a low-end plastic Netbook-class product.
Lenovo--though not listed up top--warrants an honorable mention with its IdeaPad U160 11.6-inch laptop, which has the screen measurements to match the 11.6-inch Air but is about a pound heavier and for all intents and purposes is a fairly conventional Intel Core i series-based laptop that's been squeezed into a tight form factor. And Acer has the 11.6-inch TimeLineX series, but this is 3 pounds and really not in the same class as the Air.
As pointed out in a previous post, Sony has its Vaio X, Y, and Z series, but the former is a Netbook, and the latter two are 13-inch designs, which are not nearly as sleek and small (at 4 pounds and 3 pounds, respectively) as the 11.6-inch Air, albeit the Vaio is competitively priced and offers faster Core i series processors and higher-end Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics. But, again, size is the key metric for comparison. … Read more