With iPad season now beginning to slow for another year over at Apple, it’s time to move onto their next big product launch, which will most likely be a refresh of the MacBook range.
At the new iPad 3 launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook teased a big year ahead for the Cupertino company:
“Only Apple could deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated way. It’s what we love to do. It’s what we stand for. Across the year, you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation. We are just getting started.”
As such, we’re expecting exciting new things from the latest MacBook line, and so far the rumours we’ve been hearing seem to point towards exciting changes for the line.
For your convenience, we’re collecting together all the most significant rumours surrounding the MacBook update in one handy spot below. We’ll continue to update this post as new rumours come in, before doing a final round up when Apple eventually, inevitably unveil their goodies.
Super Slim MacBook Pro, Or A 15-inch MacBook Air?
Depending on which sources you read, Apple are either preparing to slim down their 15-inch MacBook Pro offering so that it’s as lightweight and skinny as a MacBook Air, or that the MacBook Air line is expanding to include a 15-inch model.
Those two stances don’t necessarily mean the same thing either. A thin MacBook Pro would be suggestive of the same processing grunt (or more) that the current Pro line offers, squeezed into a smaller chassis. A large 15-inch MacBook Air, a first for the line, may sport a bigger screen in that same lightweight design, but wouldn’t necessarily have to boast the discrete graphics chip or processing power of the Pro line.
What’s more interesting is whether the production of a 15-inch MacBook Air or a superslim 15-inch MacBook Pro means that the production of the other will not happen. Which leads to our next rumour…
MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines to merge?
Some rumours have suggested that the MacBook Pro and Air lines are to be combined, streamlining Apple’s laptop range under the simple “MacBook” banner once more.
With super-slim 11, 13, and 15-inch notebooks seemingly in production, that’s pretty much every portable computing base covered, though we’re not sure where that leaves the 17-inch MacBook Pro.
Streamlining would simplify the line, perhaps tempting more PC users to the Apple fold. This makes sense when you think again back to the launch of the latest iPad; rather than call it the iPad 3, or iPad HD, we’re back to plain old iPad. We wouldn’t be surprised if the “Air” and “Pro” suffixes are dropped altogether.
However, we’d hate to see the MacBook Pro lines forced into thinner form factors if this means specs take a hit. If there’s one criticism regularly levelled at Apple portable computers, it’s that their high price doesn’t match the relatively low specs that the machines tend to ship with. If a slim, light design leads to the two lines merging and comes at the further expense of performance, you’ll likely see the MacBook Pro faithful up in arms.
No Optical Drive in MacBook Pro 2012?
In order to achieve the super-slim profile seen in the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro would have to go on a serious diet. Something has got to give, and we expect it to be the optical disc drive that’s first on the scrapheap for Apple.
Apple had no qualms cutting the disc drive from their MacBook Air machines, and with the Mac App Store now well stocked, and broadband speeds more than capable of downloading giant applications, the optical drive is indeed looking a little long in the tooth.
There’s also the rumour that the MacBook Pro may cut out cabled Ethernet connectivity in order to shrink down in size, which won’t be much appreciated by those with poor Wi-Fi signals or those who spend much time in hotel rooms where cabled connections are the only way to get online.
Ivy Bridge Processors Onboard
Though there was a panic that Intel’s brand new Ivy Bridge processors were going to be delayed significantly, missing the expected date they’d need to be ready for in order to make it into the next line of MacBooks, it seems now that they’re once again on track for inclusion.
With Ivy Bridge heat efficient enough for Quad-core CPUs to fit into even the 13-inch MacBook chassis for the first time, when compared to the current Sandy Bridge generation of Intel processors the new models will offer up to 20% increase in CPU performance and 30% to 199% increase in integrated GPU performance.
High Resolution “Retina” Display
As well as the super-slim new chassis, Apple are also rumoured to be considering bringing their super-high resolution Retina displays to the MacBook line up. Much like the screens used in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and new iPad 3, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models for 2012 could have screens with resolutions up to 2880 x 1800.
In terms of pixels-per-inch, a 2880 x 1800 resolution would bring the 13-inch MBP to a whopping 261ppi, the 15-inch to 226ppi and the 17-inch to 200ppi. That’s pretty mad, and will likely be of great benefit to graphic designers.
NVIDIA Could Cause Discrete Graphics Supply Issues
After a spell with AMD as the MacBook Pro’s discrete graphics chip provider, Apple had been expected to turn to NVIDIA for the 2012 laptop, popping the next-generation graphics card code-named “Kepler” into their machines.
However, there are rumours of supply issues surrounding the chips now, which could mean that all but the most expensive, larger MacBook Pro models this year could rely solely on integrated graphics solutions. Hopefully the new Ivy Bridge chips will be up to the task, and while they may be sufficient for moderately intensive graphics tasks, it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to come anywhere near the performance NVIDIA’s dedicated chips could manage.
No Thin 17-incher?
The 17-inch MacBook Pro, so often favoured by road-weary creatives for visual editing thanks to its larger screen real estate, has been rumoured to be discontinued by Apple. Though often not the most accurate of sources, DigiTimes made no mention of its production when they claimed that the 13-inch and 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro offerings had hit the factory lines.
Could this mean that Apple are looking to further streamline the MacBook product category, doing away with larger laptops as well as merging the Pro and Air lines? In respect of CEO Tim Cook’s push towards the “post-PC age”, it’s totally possible.
Possible, that is, but unlikely. The 17-incher has always had a strong following, with its larger size allowing for more powerful components and, naturally, a larger screen that’s great for visual pursuits. It may simply be that the industrial design constraints building the super-slim 13 and 15-inch MacBooks mean that a similar design overhaul isn’t possible for the 17-incher, with production taking place beyond the reach of DigiTimes sources.
We’d hazard a guess that a 17-incher is still in production, and will be considerably more powerful than the re-worked 15-inch and 13-inch thin Pro models. Perhaps even the 17-incher will retain the optical drive in the thicker chassis, and become the sole laptop to bear the MacBook “Pro” title.
All production rumours and release cycle info points at an April unveiling event for the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops.
The last MacBook Air release was seen on July 20th 2011, while the last MacBook Pro update came in only last October. However, in the case of the MacBook Pro update, it was merely an incremental spec bump, and didn’t represent a truly new model.
In that respect, we’d expect a July release for the laptops if Apple were to continue a year-on-year update. But with the iPhone launch window now re-jigging Apple’s usual product cycles, we expect the MacBook releases a little earlier this year, likely in late April or sometime in May.
UPDATED : April 4th 2012
Siri voice control headed to MacBook Pro and MacBook Air in 2012?
Rumours are now circulating that the latest MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and all-in-one iMac models will feature Siri voice control.
First appearing in Apple’s iPhone 4S, Siri allows a user to access key features of the phone just through using voice alone, setting reminders, searching the web and contacting services (in the US at least) just by speaking into the microphone. Information is then presented by a robot voice/text combo that we affectionately want to call the “phone butler”.
Now, a new Apple patent suggests advancements in the technology that may not only make it into the iPhone 5, but also MacBooks and iMacs too.
While some see Siri as a novelty, putting it into a desktop scenario as an optional extra could be very useful. Imagine not having to remember the masses of keyboard short cuts for Final Cut Pro or the Adobe creative packages? Even jumping from app to app, or dictating the odd tweet, could speed things up dramatically.
By Gerald Lynch | April 4th, 2012