While rumors of a 12-inch MacBook Air have been merrily percolating these last few months, the most interesting aspect of Apple’s upcoming redesign turns out not to be the size after all. It’s the apparent abandonment of ports.
As Cupertino Whisperer Mark Gurman showed today, the rumored redesign isn’t just a matter of size. Apple has also reportedly stripped the MacBook Air of most of its—already sparse—ports. Where there was once (on the 13-inch MBA) a home for a MagSafe connector, Thunderbolt, SDXC card slot, a headphone jack, and two USB 3.0 ports, the 12-inch MBA has a lone USB Type-C (a reversible version that can also be used for charging) port and an obligatory headphone jack. Instead of hardware connectivity, presumably, you’ll be expected to use a smorgasbord of cloud and wireless connectivity.
This seems dramatic, but should it actually come to pass it’s also perfectly fine and good and probably foreshadowed. Apple spent the last year introducing features specifically designed to let you circumvent wires altogether. Handoff, to let you move seamlessly between computer and phone. iCloud Drive, for cloud-based file storage. AirDrop, which has been around even longer, to let you share files among Apple devices with ease. It’s already entirely possible to go weeks without having to hook up your MBA to anything besides the wall, much less multiple things, much less to complete tasks that require Thunderbolt-level prowess.
Besides, the MacBook Air in particular isn’t designed for the daisy-chaining power users of the world. It’s an affordable everyone machine, and not everyone needs ports. So, sure, sounds good. Except! Except.
While on paper the transition to a nearly portless world seems perfectly fine, there’s nothing in Apple’s recent history that suggests it’s ready to put so much weight on its cloud and software offerings. Handoff is a great idea that barely worked for most people when it launched. iCloud had a ferociously rocky first few years; it’s gotten better recently but still isn’t nearly as seamless as advertised. And more generally, OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 were both rife with problems when they launched, some of which remain unresolved.