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      Why Apple’s new MacBook should worry Microsoft

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      Windows 7, which turned one year old this week, represents a vast improvement in resume time, but even the best Windows PCs can’t match this new Mac feature–at least from my initial use of the new MacBook Air.

      Part of the Air’s speed is due simply to the fact that it has flash storage, but perhaps more of it can be attributed to the fact that Apple built the new Air knowing there wouldn’t be a traditional hard drive. As a result, it can design the system accordingly, allowing it to speed up tasks further. And Steve Jobs said a number of times that the design of the Air represents the future of the MacBook, suggesting that flash storage could be the future for all of Cupertino’s portables. In a brief chat after the event, Jobs emphasized that point to me again.

      Microsoft, in supporting Windows, has to make sure the operating system works on everything that meets its minimum specifications. In short, it’s the typical challenge for Windows. Because Microsoft works with a variety of hardware partners–as well as supporting years-old machines–Windows often has to sacrifice the ultimate in performance for the sake of compatibility.
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      That said, it is an area that Microsoft continues to work on with hardware makers. Already, there are some pretty zippy machines with solid-state storage (including the ultrathin Vaio X, which weighs even less than the MacBook Air). Developments on the chip front should help speed things further. Microsoft also should have another advantage on the price front–flash storage continues to be far pricier than traditional hard drives, and any move to standardize on solid-state storage ensures Windows laptops plenty of room to compete on price.

      But it’s not just the MacBook Air that should worry those in Redmond. Apple is talking about building more of the iPad’s consumer electronics-like feel into the Mac with Lion, the new version of OS X due next summer.

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