Radar: technorexia: Macbook air

Jeremy Gordon

Remember in “Zoolander” when Ben Stiller whips out his miniature cell phone? Technology might be headed in that direction. A few weeks ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs showed off his newest toy, the MacBook Air, at the Macworld Conference & Expo. Billed as the world’s smallest laptop, the MacBook Air is less than an inch thick and can barely be seen from a side view. It can be pre-ordered right now at Apple’s Web site, ranging in price from $1800 to $3000, depending on the model.

Of course, it’s not surprising that Apple is making an incredibly thin computer in a country that is so damn fat. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that only three states in the U.S. have obesity levels of less than 20 percent for adults, with most states falling in the 25 percent range. And that’s just obesity, which is the level where excessive weight is classified as seriously unhealthy; even more Americans are diagnosed as overweight.

Companies are continuing to trot out technology that is thinner and thinner, taking advantage of people’s body image issues, getting them to buy something that subliminally assuages the guilt of low self-esteem. It’s psychological marketing, one that has more to do with body image than it does the actual usefulness of the product.

According to Apple, first shipments of the computer will go out during the first full week of February, which is amazingly quick considering its recent announcement. But quick releases typically mean capitalizing on the buzz. Remember when the iPhone launched in 2007? Multiple problems with the iPhone, such as a clunky text interface and limited third-party support, popped up almost immediately after the launch – but it didn’t stop people from buying them.

Apple could be doing the same thing here because the MacBook Air has so much It-factor going for it. If the company can get everyone who wants a MacBook Air to buy one immediately, then they won’t have to worry about the computer’s troublesome technological exclusions, such as its lack of an Ethernet port or removable media drives. Indeed, the MacBook Air is not a friendly computer for Northwestern students living in dorms, as users will have to purchase a separate adapter to connect to the Internet via Ethernet. Is being at the forefront of trendy technology worth all of the extra costs Apple is about to gouge you with? If you can’t live without “The Hills,” then it might be. Just don’t expect any sympathy when your MacBook Air falls behind your desk and can’t be fished out.