Apple's MacBook Air, Mac OS X Owe It All to iPad

Apple's new MacBook Air and Mac OS X Lion demonstrate that the company is relying on its mobile efforts, especially the iPad, more than ever.

Apple is first and foremost "a mobile-device company," COO Tim Cook said in February. And over the past several quarters, that assertion has become increasingly true: first Apple released the iPad, followed by the iPhone OS 4, and then an updated version of its mobile operating system designed to buttress the features of both those devices.

Apple's Oct. 20 event may have focused on the laptop and desktop, but it only increased the company's bent towards mobile. Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that FaceTime, a video-conferencing application previously available only on iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, is becoming a Mac application. The beta version, compatible on Snow Leopard, is available in the App Store.

Speaking of applications, Jobs also introduced Mac OS X Lion, which will ship in summer 2011 and feature a Mac App Store. Lion will support full-screen apps, and include Launchpad, an iPad-like home-screen for those those apps. The Mac App Store will be available within 90 days for Snow Leopard.

"Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac users will really like," Jobs wrote in an Oct. 20 statement accompanying Mac OS X Lion. The company is also introducing iLife '11, with upgrades to iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand.

During the presentation, Jobs' "one more thing" turned out to be a revamp of the company's MacBook Air. "We asked ourselves, what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?" he said. "This is the result."

The new MacBook Air models measure 11 inches and 13 inches, respectively, and leverage SSD (solid-state disk) storage technology. According to Apple executives, that gives the devices the same "instant on" ability as mobile devices.

"MacBook Air is the first of a new generation of notebooks that leaves behind mechanical rotating storage in favor of solid-state flash storage," Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote in another Oct. 20 statement. "We've taken what we have learned with the iPad-solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturization and lightweight construction, to create the new MacBook Air."

The 11-inch MacBook Air starts at $999, and the 13-inch at $1,299.

In an Oct. 20 research note, Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek termed the App Store for the Mac "the single biggest takeaway." That could very well be true. But most of Apple's announcements-the new MacBook Air, the app-related features of Mac OS X-just reemphasized how much of Apple's spirit is invested in mobile.