Ultralights, MacBook Air and Netbooks, Oh My

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

The choices for portable computing have never been greater. And the choice for which PC you buy and support, as always, comes down to price versus performance. Netbooks and MacBook Air look convenient, but do they have the power? Ultralights have features, but are they light enough? And what are we paying for? Here’s a look at today's choices for mobile computing.

If you want to create some controversy, just say something along the lines of "The MacBook Air sucks for business."

While that may be a blanket statement that unfairly casts the MacBook Air in a negative light, there’s some truth to the statement when one takes a look at competing products and how they are used for business.

To understand where the MacBook Air comes up short, one has to identify the competing products and their strengths—not an easy challenge in today’s world of constantly evolving products.

Although mobile workers perform their duties as individuals, they do share a common goal—productivity. Add to that the bean counters' goal of affordability, and the list of mobile solutions narrows significantly.

The units that remain in the balance of affordability and usability are located in the sweet spot of enterprisewide deployment. Those who value affordability above all else tilt the scales toward netbooks, while those looking for maximum productivity tilt the scales toward thin and light notebook computers, which include the MacBook Air.

From a productivity point of view, most users are looking for portable systems that can run their office suite applications, e-mail clients, Web 2.0 applications and Web browsers. A majority of the users may also need to run line-of-business applications and VPN clients as well. To accomplish those goals, a modicum of power is needed. Add VOIP and video to the mix, and that power quotient rises.

For most, saving a few bucks by going with an Intel Atom-powered netbook will probably amount to money being thrown away.

The typical mobile user needs certain functions in a portable computer: The device must have wireless networking, expansion ports, a usable screen (large and bright), ample storage space and run the mandatory software. If we apply those elements to the top three mobile PC platforms, weaknesses become readily apparent.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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