New MacBook — getting warmer ...

Apple updated the plastic entry-level MacBook overnight, consistent with its recent policy of quietly releasing small, incremental improvements to its products that don't start with "i". As expected, the MacBook now has better graphics and, also as expected, it's got the same long-life battery its metallic cousins recently gained. Really, it's got a full complement of the bells and whistles one might like in a portable computer. Almost.

Almost, but not quite.

For a mere $A1249 you get a MacBook with 2GB RAM, a 2.4GHz Core2Duo processor, 250GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics card and 10-hour battery. It's hard to argue it's not good value.

There is just this one, little, niggly thing. An oversight really, more than an omission.

The MacBook, just like every other Apple computer with "Mac" in its name, still does not possess 3G or any other form of wireless mobile data connection. A year or two back that seemed absent-minded — now it looks deliberate.

"So what," you say, "I've got my iPhone/iPad for that if I want to surf on the bus".

No, sorry, not good enough. Mobile Safari is terrific as mobile web browsers go, and streets ahead of mobile web browsers that came before it, but it is not a desktop-class web browser. Not by a long ways. And the iPhone's Mail app, for all its recent improvement, is still a far cry from comparable to a fully-featured mail client. Even the iPad version is just a bigger version of the same thing.

Don't even get me started on the iDevices' lack of an accessible file system and inability to download stuff from almost anywhere except the App Store.

The fact is, for all the power these devices add to what you used to be able to do in a mobile device, they are not replacements for full-powered computers. Not yet anyway.

Heck, some people even want to use sites with Flash on them believe it or not.

Entry-level notebooks and netbooks with 3G data capabilities are commonplace outside the Apple world, and quite affordable presuming you're prepared to faff about with Windows or Linux. Indeed high-end fully-featured notebooks are not difficult to find with 3G on board — except from Apple.

Apple seems to have decided that its customers want to choose between "always on" connection and a full-spec computer. We can't have both. It's either a MacBook (or MacBook Air or MacBook Pro) with all the fixings, genuine desktop-class applications and full keyboards, or it's an iPhone/iPad with Internet everywhere but compromised capability to make use of it.

That, to me, isn't fair. Why can't I have it all?

For myself it isn't actually that big of a deal because I have an iPhone with Telstra and if I want to I can tether my MacBook Pro to that over Bluetooth and surf thusly. This indeed I have done on more than one occasion. More than two even.

The fact is Apple was reluctant to allow even that capability for iPhones — a capability that pretty much every other mobile phone has possessed for over a decade. I used to use my Nokia 6200 as a modem on my PowerBook connected with infra-red — that was a looooong time ago. I feel old typing it.

Apple still has customers in parts of the world who own MacBooks and iPhones and cannot do that. Obscure backwaters of the world such as California, for instance. There Apple is a prisoner to its deal with AT&T which, for its own unfathomable reasons, does not want to allow tethering from iPhones. Don't ask me.

A MacBook with 3G built in would solve that overnight. Lock it to a network, don't lock it, it doesn't matter — the connection would be there in the computer and if the networks didn't want to let Apple computers use them when they let other manufacturers' customers do so then the regulators would have questions to ask. Problem immediately goes away.

But Apple won't give us the 3G connection.

This is simply out of step with Apple's claim to leadership in technology and innovation. Apple is out the front telling us that the future is mobile, soon no-one will have a desk and ubiquitous connectivity will be fact. It recognises that its customers want that very thing — they want full-powered, full-mobility computing, and they want it now.

But they can't get it from Apple.

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