After rumors of a MacBook Air update this week proved to be false, the question remains: is the Air an endangered species that will ultimately yield its spot in Apple's ecosystem to the iPad?
Although I cannot divine Apple's plans, I know this much: after the iPad came out, salespeople at Apple stores were consistently pointing out (maybe too consistently to be just a coincidence) that the iPad would serve as an adequate replacement for the Air.
To state the obvious (or maybe not the obvious for Apple store employees), the iPad really doesn't come close to approximating the Air.
As I own both, I can say this with some degree of authority. To mention just a few of the Air's advantages: full-sized, physical keyboard, bigger screen, USB port, built-in ability to print, full-fledged Apple OS X, dual-core Intel processor, Nvidia graphics, and multitasking. The list is pretty long. (I won't even get into the lack of Flash support in the iPad here.)
It would be hard to believe that smarter heads at Apple don't see this. Regardless, here's a better way for Apple (officially) and Apple store employees (unofficially) to explain why the Air has become so stale: because so many people buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Air (which has a 13-inch screen) is more or less redundant. The logic is easier to swallow.
That said, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is still a pretty conventional laptop (5.6 pounds) compared with the Air's cutting-edge design (3 pounds). And although I would understand if Apple doesn't update the Air--for the reason stated above--I still hope it does. The internals of the Air are screaming to be refreshed. As I've mentioned before, upgrades could include new low-power Core i7 processors, larger/faster solid-state drives (or 1.8-inch 5400RPM hard disk drives), built-in 3G/4G, and, generally, an overhaul that yields better battery life.
There's still nothing out there like the Air, which was launched with great fanfare in early 2008. Dell made an admirable attempt with the Adamo and Hewlett-Packard tried with the Envy, but neither could match the original ultra-thin aluminum flair of the Air.