Is Apple Missing The Boat?

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The latest Steve Jobs keynote today saw the release of Apple’s first Macs with Intel processors. As usual, they’re pretty tasty — as a PowerBook user, that MacBook Pro is looking pretty sweet indeed.

But.

I find the lack of support for mobile data disappointing. It would have been great to see an option for built-in EV-DO, UMTS/HSDPA or even EDGE modems. Other manufacturers are already building in cellular radios to their laptops, but they’re typically locked to a single provider (T-Mobile even plans to sell HSDPA-enabled laptops in Germany). Building a modular unit with plug-and-play support for various cellular modems — allowing customers to choose a provider and not be locked in to a particular one because of the type of laptop they bought. Such an option would befit Apple’s user experience focus, as well as the leading-edge MacBook Pro.

That was really just a pipe dream, though, and to see it happen would have been quite a surprise. But perhaps even more disappointing is the laptop’s lack of a PC Card slot, Apple instead choosing to implement the next-generation ExpressCard/34. Yes, ExpressCard is newer and better than PC Card — so new, in fact, that I’m having a hard time finding any actual ExpressCard peripherals yet, never mind cellular data cards. So by choosing it instead of or in addition to PC Card, Apple’s relegated users to some strange sort of bleeding-edge obsolesence. If you want high-speed data, you’re stuck with tethering to a phone.

There’s really a gap here that Apple could fill and become a much-needed leader for cellular data. iSync shows just how easy syncing a computer and a mobile phone can be, while Apple’s been a strong supporter of Bluetooth, both in terms of including it in hardware, but also in actually making it easy to use. High-speed mobile data is still waiting for something to push it over the edge, and Apple could be the company to do it. But not this time around.

The lack of a PC Card slot was my major complaint about my 12″ PowerBook, because I’d love to get an EV-DO or HSDPA modem. Figuring out that the MacBook Pro won’t do anything to improve that situation has soured me on it. For now, anyway…

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