On the new MacBook Air. And why we’re investing in the Cloud above it.

I am rarely seen without my much-loved MacBook Air (MBA) — which is 33 months old — so several people have asked me whether I will be upgrading to the newly announced MBAs, and whether it may be right for them.

The original MBA fit for me in 2008 because I hate to be more than a minute from full access to all my files, history and complete office suite of productivity apps. It was fourth of a series of ultra thin and light laptops since having switched to Windows in 1999. I had always been willing to pay any price to “carry it all with me” while compromising performance for portability. The $7,000 Macintosh Portable (1989) was anything but at 16Lb — yet with an extra lead-acid battery and 5 1/4″ hard drive in a roller-bag I could *have it all with me*. What a different world we live in today in so many ways.

But it is a mystery to me why ANY laptop still has an optical drive. We invented CD ROM encryption and eCommerce with the Vendor System at AND in 1989, but I haven’t used the darn things in a decade now. We buy movies streaming from Netflix, XBox or Apple TV. Books and newspapers on kindle. Music on iTunes.

Which is why, at iNovia, we invest in consumer internet and digital media startups.

I bought the MBA as a second computer to my high-performance, liquid-cooled desktop; to use when travelling. With effort, I’ve always maintained two machines, RAID, backups, etc. But maintaining two machines in sync is now trivial with tools like dropbox and status.net. All our communications tools are now web based with the exception of skype and GMail is superior in every respect to Exchange. Backup is free when everything is in the cloud. A laptop can now be a primary and only machine, with a tablet or smartphone as the only “backup”.

Because the world has changed. Everything IS now in the cloud.

Google search replaces spotlight, SugarSync replaces time machine and we are at an inflection-point with searching in the cloud now faster than searching locally and more importantly the compute, storage and battery to run them doesn’t have to be in your pocket. With google voice search, the voice recognition isn’t even done locally, it’s shipped off the the server.

Which is why, at iNovia, we are investing in cloud and virtualization startups.

And this refactoring of IT to a fluid world where data and compute are commodities brought to bare when and where most appropriate means that connectivity is the more important trajectory to measure progress than compute performance. Connectivity is now increasing faster than performance. Which makes me wonder why Apple added a second USB port when I barely even use the first one. We invented the USB key at Rainbow in 1996 but *other* than a USB key everything I own is now wireless. Even full rate uncompressed video and USB 3.0 is going to be wireless before long!

Which is why, at iNovia, we are investing in innovative communications companies.

I have found myself preferring gmail’s web interface over any other mailer and cloud search indeed trumps all. This suggests that early adopters will compromise further on performance in favour of portability. And why all software is moving to service-base, mobile model.

Which is why, at iNovia, we are investing in mobile and SaaS software companies.

Apple has put the latest GPU in the new MBAs, alongside an Intel processor that was introduced two years ago. This has never happened before — new computers being introduced with two year old CPUs manufactured in a previous-generation lithography? Faster processors don’t deliver more performance unless you feed them more battery and then remove that heat. This “Power Wall” is the dominating design constraint on all electronics now, both in the server and in your hand.

Which is why, at iNovia, we are investing in advanced thermal management companies.

But above all, we’re investing in entrepreneurs that have a clear vision of this future and who demonstrate an ability to execute to that vision.

And yes, I might just “upgrade” to a new MBA with a slower, old processor and a smaller screen.

Shawn

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