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Should Apple make a low-cost ultraportable Mac?

There’s a small hacking community building up around the MSI Wind/Advent 4211 which is using the low-cost, ultra-portable machine to run Mac OS X. It takes lots of work – you need to replace the WiFi card for one thing – but it’s always great to see people hacking around with hardware to do crazy stuff like this.

But it raises a question: how much would you pay for an ultraportable Mac from Apple, and what would you expect the spec to be? I’ve heard Mac users dismiss the whole low-cost ultraportable scene as "nothing more that toys", but in fact machines like the Wind are anything but.

It packs a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 80GB hard drive, 10in screen, nice quality keyboard, and 1GB of memory into a package that’s lighter than a MacBook Air. Plus, of course, you could buy four of them for the price of a MacBook Air. Sure, you’re not going to be doing heavyweight Photoshop work on them – but you’re not going to be doing that on the Air, either.

Whether Apple will embrace this category of machine I don’t know. The profit margins on them must be low, and low-margin categories are ones that Apple traditionally avoids. But if it did actually make one, here’s what I’d like to see:

  • A ten inch screen. Anything smaller is hard to use with web applications.
  • 1GB RAM, expandable to 2GB.
  • 80GB hard drive. SSDs are nice, but at the moment I’d prefer an 80GB drive over a 20GB SSD. Plus, the killer feature for these machines is that locally-synced iDisk, which means having a bit more storage than SSDs allow at this price point at the moment.
  • Five hour battery life. Actually, I’d like all-day battery life, but that’s stretching it!
  • 1KG weight.
  • £399 price point ($699). I’d stretch to £449, but much further and the temptation to upsell to a MacBook becomes too great. Knowing Apple, they’d probably go for £499.

I’d be first in the queue for that kind of machine. What about you? Do you think Apple should make a machine like this – and would  you buy one if it did?

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