My initial thoughts on the Apple Air release were not positive. I have seen many previous attempts by other companies to release ultra-light notebooks (Toshiba, HP, Compaq, Dell, NEC, etc) and all of them have eventually been killed because the sales volume was not enough to justify the development costs. There is often an initial rush of sales from the early adopters, but the volume markets never get on board as there are too many compromises necessary to get the small form factor.
The jargon for these type of laptops in the industry is “executive jewelery” as they are usually only purchased by executives looking to impress their peers in meetings and airport lounges. For the standard IT needs of business (where the actual money is made) a laptop is generally chosen that will fit the needs of most of the users, and that is typically a mid size model.
As I was seeing the ad for the Air for yet another time it occurred to me how much sense this laptop actually makes for Apple. While their market share has been increasing, the Apple penetration into the corporate space is extremely small and breaking in to it is very difficult for them. When corporates go to tender for laptops they are looking for a system that will easily fit into their SOE and even with the Windows boot options, the whole MacOS thing will always make them wary of awarding the contract to Apple.
There is one group that can get around the corporate standards, which is the executives. While it annoys the IT staff, if an executive wants a particular laptop, he will get it regardless of the standards and many executives will be looking to be seen with an Apple Aero. This is what makes what would be a bad product for other vendors a good idea from Apple as it gets them into the game. It gives the IT staff and management in some of these large companies a chance to get comfortable with supporting the Apple product.
Apple only need to get a percent or two of the corporate space to drastically increase their market share and to create credibility in the market for future growth. After they see all the press of the Air, a lot of other vendors will release new ultra-portable models of their own. For all of them except Apple, they will not find it a great market to return to.