Steve Jobs, I know you’re reading this

What is the point of having a blog, really, if you are not allowed from time to time to vent a personal grievance? No point, you say? I quite agree.

I am a born-again Apple devotee and recidivist iPhone-fondler. However, I am disturbed by a couple of recent developments in the Apple product line, and want to see these errors corrected. I believe I am not alone.

The first is the new “shelf-motif” Dock in Leopard. This innovation—and I use these words advisedly—is thoroughly Microsoft. It is intended to look good, whereas in fact it looks awful. Worse, far worse, its utility is less than that of the previous version. It is a riot of useless confusing reflections and bogus 3D effects, making it far harder to see which applications are active. Moving it to the side of the screen (where my Dock usually lives) helps a good deal—because you get a 2D panel in that case without reflections—but it is still annoyingly ugly and obtrusive compared to the 10.4 version. I mean, that contrasting edge effect. Where else do you see such vulgarity in the design palette? Yuck. So now I hide the Dock instead of having it on-screen all the time, which I resent having to do—another reduction in utility. Happily, Steve, the remedy is simple. Please include an option to show the 10.4 Dock—yes, complete with little black triangles—in the next OS update. There is no virtue in change for its own sake.

My second gripe concerns the Macbook Air. This is not the step forward I had been hoping for. At home I have a maxed-out Power Mac, because I am an avid landscape photographer (if you are curious, check out www.clivecrookphoto.com), and editing images of a gigabyte and up is a task that makes big demands on computer resources. But for work I use a now-defunct 12-inch Powerbook G4—which is the best, by a very wide margin, of all the many laptops I have become acquainted with over the years. It is almost an ultraportable, at just a sliver wider than its full-size keyboard. But it is also a viable desktop replacement—with a full range of ports and a DVD drive. It travels with me from office to office (so light that I have to look to make sure it is in my bag). At my various desks it happily connects to monitor, external keyboard and mouse; printer; ethernet; and two external hard drives (one firewire, one usb); all without swapping connectors.

Steve, why oh why have you failed to replace this model in the line-up? Using that same—perfect—form factor you could have given me a faster processor, a muscular graphics card, bigger hard drive, and much better battery life. Instead you have used two years of technological advance to produce a machine, the Air, that is very thin, I grant you, but in most other ways less capable. One usb port. No firewire. No ethernet. I would need a bundle of hubs and cables to get the same connectivity. And no DVD drive? Are you kidding me? How would it be possible to take a flight without taking a movie to watch? (Rent one from iTunes, you say. When you’ve as many titles as Netflix, or make that one-tenth as many, I’ll think about it.)

Again, the remedy is self-evident. Make the next Air an eighth of an inch thicker, and two ounces heavier, and use the extra volume to fit in a DVD drive and a full set of ports. In the meantime, I’m raising the retirement age of my Powerbook.

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