How will Apple redesign the ultraslim, seminal MacBook Air that launched dozens of me-too ultraportable laptops? Only Apple knows. But here are some gratuitous musings anyway.
In a previous post, I said I wouldn't hazard any guesses on what Apple may do with the MacBook Air. And I won't. That doesn't stop me from looking at the most recent ultrathin laptop competition to see where Apple might be able to improve the design that turns two years old in January.
Enclosure: This will be a tough act to follow. The original design was good enough that Apple didn't change it for gen 2--aka Rev. B--of the Air. And the aluminum enclosure was a trendsetter, which all MacBook Pros (and other PC makers) eventually copied.
But that doesn't mean the Air is perfect. The razor-thin slab of aluminum provides little room for ports and connectors. (Apple's implementation is a flip-out set of USB, Mini DisplayPort, audio ports that retract back into the body.)
A design modification that the Dell Adamo uses (some say retrogressed to) was putting the ports on the back (behind the screen). This allows Dell to offer a fuller array of connectors.
Hewlett-Packard, for its part, went another route: it just made its Envy 13 slightly thicker (at 0.8 inches) than the Air, allowing a couple more connectors (a second USB port and an SD card slot). HP also molded the base of the Envy in magnesium, which makes it lighter, according to HP.
Then there's just-announced Dell Adamo XPS. This is even thinner than the MacBook Air and puts the CPU-complex-plus-circuit-board (aka motherboard) behind the screen, not underneath the keyboard--standard design practice for all laptops.
Of course, there's the recurring rumor that Apple is looking at different materials to make it even lighter while maintaining its famous sturdiness. This could potentially be a combination of aluminum and something like carbon fiber. (Though, as stated above, HP claims that magnesium is the way to go.)
Other possibilities: make one model bigger (wider), a la the Dell Latitude Z, which offers a 16-inch 1600x900 WLED Display and at its thickest point is only 0.79 inches.
Or make it smaller. The Sony Vaio X is a great example of how light (1.6 pounds) and thin (0.55 inches) a premium laptop (technically it's a Netbook) can be.
Tablet? There is the remote possibility that a version of the Air becomes a tablet. And that would mean potentially a new enclosure and new silicon.
Graphics:. The second feature I'll touch on is graphics. A good graphics chip is tough to squeeze into ultrathin designs and this a major feature that set the Air apart from other slim designs,… Read more