Why not an even smaller Powerbook?

by Jonathan Gennick

I really have to hand it to Apple. More than any other computer company out
there, Apple knows how to create suspense and get people excited about their
products. I about fell out of my chair when I read about the new 12- and 17-inch
Powerbooks. I have no doubt there's a market for both, but the 12-inch model
is the one that really caught my attention, because small and light, and hopefully
with a long battery life, is exactly what I want my next notebook to be.

I've thought about the 12-inch Powerbook a lot since it was announced. Apple
bills it as "full-featured"
notebook. After thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that full-featured
is a state-of-mind. Witness all those who are upset at the lack of a PC-card
slot, or at the lack of a level-3 cache, or at the 640MB memory ceiling, or
at the lack of a DVI video connecter. But I'm not here to complain about what
Apple left out. Quite the opposite, I want Apple to leave out more!

We could quibble about Apple's design tradeoffs, but the bottom line is that
Apple has put together a very attractive package here. Not only physically attractive,
but attractive featurewise as well with its built-in bluetooth, 802.11g, G4
processor, AGP 4x graphics, DDR memory, and its ability to drive an external
1600x1200 display in addition to its built-in display. It's a great little machine,
and I'll be surprised if it doesn't sell very well.

Apple has built out its Powerbook line in both directions from the middle,
but I think there's one slot they could yet fill: that of an even thinner Powerbook,
one without a CD drive. Now don't laugh. In the Windows world there's a market
for such machines. IBM, for example, sells it's Thinkpad
at a very premium price--customers pay more to get less. Then there's
Portégé 2010
, Compaq's
EVO 410
, and Sony's VAIO®
R505G SuperSlim™ Pro
, just to name a few.

Just as some would willingly trade screen size for a smaller form-factor, preferring
the 12-inch model over the 15- and 17-inch models, there are some who would
trade in the CD drive as well. I know I would. In the 2+ years I've had my current
notebook, I've never, that I can recall, ever used the CD drive while travelling.
At home I have a desktop for my CD needs. I'd happily trade out the CD drive
in my notebook for a reduction in size & weight. Perhaps better would be
to replace the CD drive with a slot for a second battery. Imagine for a moment
a 12-inch Powerbook with an 8-10 hour battery life. Wouldn't that be a great

What do you think? Is there a market for an even thinner & lighter Powerbook with no built-in CD drive? Would you buy one?


2003-01-13 02:17:52
12" Powerbook - CD not required
Smaller and lighter is all the go, who needs a PDA then.
2003-01-13 06:17:29
10.4" Powerbook -- sign me up!
I tell my friends this. Sony has some 3lb laptops with 800MHz P3 processors (Sony SRX99 is 2.76 lbs for $1499.

A picture of the Sony is here:


Fujitsu has a 2.8lb 10.7" widescreen laptop, the LifeBook P2000, with a built-in combo drive (DVD/CDRW), also $1499. It would be perfect if only it had a trackpad and ran MacOS :)

The Fujitsu picture is here:


I have a 12" iBook currently, and I'll likely buy a future generation of the 12" Powerbook. I wish they'd come out with a smaller one though.

2003-01-13 10:29:56
It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it
I've been using the Fujitsu Lifebook P for several months. The fact that it's not as thin as some other notebooks is less relevant than the fact that it's small in form-factor.

Given that, it's useful to have the CD drive built in. I rarely use mine, but when I do use it, I really need it. Plus, it's not just about being able to read a CD-ROM. It has proved useful on several occassions to burn a CD-R on the go. I can see why someone would think they don't need the built-in CD reader, but for me it's got to be there to call a system full-featured.

Jonathan Gennick
2003-01-13 11:31:02
The Fujitsu Lifebook is impressive
I just looked up the specs. Only 3.4 pounds with the CD drive in place, and, apparently, 2.8 pounds with it removed. That's not bad.

I also like that you can swap in an extra battery in place of the CD drive. Fujitsu claims up to 12 hours battery life with a modular-bay battery and the high-capacity main battery.

2003-01-13 18:12:37
smaller powerbook
A smaller powerbook would be a big deal. Over the past nine years I've seen many notebooks without CDs and the owners loved them. They'd download files and software from the desktop and set it up for trips or meetings. It would be a great add-on to a business, used in conjunction with desktops and PDAs. It would also work well with students and people living in studio apartments.
2003-01-14 11:29:44
premium price because there is no market
The entire market for the type of subnotebook you want is even smaller than Apple's laptop marketshare and centered almost exclusively around Japan. People say they like these types of computers, but they DON'T BUY THEM!

Apple isn't being stupid about this, it just isn't worth building a machine that sells in the low thousands or even high hundreds.

2003-01-14 12:29:11
Totally Agree
I agree because my first computer was a Powerbook 100, which had an external floppy. Single spindle notebooks are awesome and besides, the 12" powerbook is too much like the iBook as it is now.

Take out the CD and include an external FW cdrom along with a FW2 port from the 17" Powerbook and I'm there.

Jonathan Gennick
2003-01-14 15:35:28
premium price because there is no market
Please, I never said Apple was stupid, just that there is another market segment out there.

I believe what you say about the Japan market. Dynamism.com has a number of very small notebook models that they import into the U.S. from Japan. There's even a Thinkpad S30 that's smaller than the Thinkpad X30 IBM sells in the states.

Is it true? Does no one in the states buy these small subnotebooks?

2003-01-16 11:16:24
Hello?? DVD's on the plane!
1. Apple isn't in the position to address such a small market as the CD-less sub notebook.

2. I like to watch DvDs on the plane with my laptop.

2003-01-19 11:49:31
No CD?
How do you install software without a CD?
Jonathan Gennick
2003-01-19 19:06:31
Installing software w/o a CD
You put the CD in another computer, share it, and install the software across the network. Or you use an external CD drive (USB or Firewire) that you plug in only when installing software.

Obviously, you wouldn't want a CD-less mac as your only computer.

2003-02-13 19:03:36
Fujitsu Lifebook p2000
This really looks like a diamond, although a few people have complained about the position of the shift key (could be worse I guess), but where on EARTH do I get one?
I'll need it shipped because for some reason Fujitsu are starving us in the United Kingdom of their decent stuff...how bizarre?
Anyway, can anyone help?