Netbooks are not Apple's design

Several weeks ago Apple, Inc. unveiled its hot new line of laptop computers to much rejoicing and hullabaloo. These were gorgeous machines with respectable spec sheets and for the first time the entire Apple notebook line had sturdy all-aluminum casing. Not all was well in the Mac community, however. There were some who had wanted Apple to release a notebook in the emerging 'netbook' market, and they were sorely disappointed.

Netbooks are an emerging market, a market so new in fact that my copy of OpenOffice still throws a red squiggle under the word. They are essentially a bare-bones laptop with a very small footprint - usually a 8 or 10 inch screen. They are meant for browsing the Internet and word processing and not much else. They aren't for gaming, storing your entire media library, or multi-tasking between seven different applications. They usually don't have webcams, CD drives, or other fancy-shmancy add-ons. They are also really cheap -usually under $500 - which is their main draw. Some would say that they have a low price point, but those people are idiots. A word of advice to them – there is no need to use the word 'price point' when 'price' conveys the exact same idea. You are not going to ask your friend what the price point of the new toaster he purchased was. No, you're going to ask him how much it cost, or how much he paid for it.

So these netbooks are really cheap and are apparently selling like hotcakes. Well, hotcakes with screens. And some “loyal” – I use that word lightly here – Apple fans think that Apple should produce a laptop for this market. (One could I suppose argue that they just wanted the Mac Air for cheaper.) They think that by releasing a sub-$800 laptop, that Apple would make a lot of money and gain new customers. This is a misguided wish for several reasons.

Reason 1: Apple is a respected brand that has always made higher-end consumer products. Their laptops typically are released at a price of around $1200 going all the way up to their Pro line of $3500 or so. Historically they make products for the artistic professionals – movie makers, photographers, designers, etc. The business world uses Windows and all the art is made on Macs. (This accounts the disproportionate amount of Macs you see in movies and TV shows.)

Reason 2: Apple puts a lot of work into designing their products, and it shows. People don't realize that making good design is usually expensive and requires a lot of hard work. Somebody has to pay for all of that gorgeous design that sets apart Macs from the rest of the computer world.

Reason 3: Most Mac users are extremely loyal. (Since 2002 I have owned five different Macs, and that was not because I needed them. I just liked having them around.) What this translates to is a very active second-hand Mac market. Macs have famously high resale value, which happened to be one of my considerations when buying my MacBook the weekend it was released. I bought my Mac for around $1500 three years ago and WILL be able to resell it for 700-800 dollars if I choose to sell it even now, almost three years later. When my mom needed a new laptop, I advised her to buy a used Aluminum PowerBook rather than a new MacBook because it was essentially the same machine, only $300 cheaper. Mac fans who whined about no $500 notebook failed to see that they already had one – the 12' G4 PowerBook. Sure it doesn't have the newest Mac OS or other nice features, but hey, it has a wireless and can run OS X, right? That's really all the average netbook user would need. For even cheaper you could buy a used iBook and still have OS X.

By releasing a netbook Apple would not only risk jeopardizing their respected professional brand, but they would also risk sabotaging their second-hand market that keeps enthusiasts abated until they decide to buy another new Apple machine. They would also risk having to release a machine that was not iconic in its design, like nearly every Apple machine has been. Way to go Apple, for continuously sticking to your guns and releasing great computers at reasonable prices.


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Not all roses who wander are lost

So last night's episode of House, M.D., a series I watch rather passionately, was a major character-developing episode for Thirteen, an attractive doctor in her late twenties/early thirties. She has Huntington's disease, a degenerative condition that will end her life in ten to fifteen years, which she inherited from her mother, whom she watched die slowly and painfully.

The program focused on the choices she had made recently as a result of news that her disease was progressing faster than had been expected - lifestyle choices involving late-night partying, drugs, and casual sex with strangers (she's bisexual). Dr. Foreman, her colleague, cautions her against such behaviors, instead advising that she should use the time to exercise, stay healthy, and try to prolong her life as long as possible. Thirteen retorts that what she's doing is making her happy, and isn't life all about being happy?

Though I am fascinated with the human condition to strive to be happy, this article is not about that. Basing a lifestyle around making the whole point of life in striving to make oneself happy is of course incredibly misguided and doomed to fail, much like one mistake in the opening of a chess game means the game is already lost.

Thirteen is doing this, but at an accelerated pace, one that will cause misery much sooner than her disease will end her life.

My interest here is not what Thirteen is doing (the self-destructive behavior seeking to find control in her otherwise-uncontrollable situation), but rather the bigger picture of the hidden implications behind her behavior. Thirteen is, as she sees it, "sucking the marrow out of life", or living life to the fullest. She is getting all the fun in that she can before she returns to the dust. She is trying to get her money's worth out of life.

This situation then brings her worldview into light. Clearly, for her, her life is her own, and she sees it as being unfairly terminated. After all, she spent all those years in medical school to prepare for a high-paying career so that she could live a life of luxury, right? Now all that time she could have spent partying she has to make up for. She invested in a future that she now will not be able to cash in on. This is maddening for her. Now if her life is her own, and she does what she wants with it, she must feel cheated. Fate is out to get her, to ruin all her plans and make her existence worthless. She clearly has to get all the fun she can in before her Huntington's kills her, whether that fun is cheap sex or incredible hour-long drug highs. It's a sad situation, really.

Now how would a Christian respond to this. Several verses come to mind, including 1 Cor.6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.", Jer. 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.", and Matt. 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." As Christians we can have courage, and even take delight, in knowing that God has plans for us. I even find it incredibly comforting to know that I do not have to bear the sole responsibility for my life's course - that God knows what's going on and he can use any and every situation for good (Rom 8:28).

God created the universe, including, of course, human beings, and he owes us nothing. NOTHING. This sovereignty of God I think even proves that the universe is working the way it should. It doesn't mean I understand why bad things happen to good people, but I do think that it means that even if bad things DO happen, God will be glorified. In our life, or even in our death, it is our duty to let other people see that. Hopefully Thirteen will start to do a better job.


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