While we here at iSource were hard at work covering the forthcoming iPad announcement, a slow, steady drumbeat was continuing with little notice. Several reports surfaced at this time, claiming that the next-generation MacBook Pros would make the switch to a MacBook Air-like form-factor sometime this year.
I tend to agree with these reports, although I’m totally unsure of the timeline. Additionally, I do not believe they will take on a form-factor exactly similar to the MacBook Air. Yes, I believe they will be thinner than the current MacBook Pros, but what’s to say they have to be as thin as current MacBook Airs?
Currently, what defines the “Pro” line is the inclusion of an optical drive, traditional hard disk storage, and beefier processors and graphics. The Air, by contrast, is built around portability and lighting-fast solid state storage. The rumor mill currently believes Apple will simply be melding the former into the latter at increased display sizes comparable to the Pro line. I think Apple will do something a little bit different.
I believe these new, thinner, MacBook pros will shed the optical drive. Apple is moving all of their computer lines in that direction. This will reduce thickness. However, if I had to wager, Apple will leave enough space to continue use traditional platter-based hard drives, which still offer more storage, at lower prices than the new, faster, solid state storage.
This extra chassis space will also allow for greater battery life, which in turn allows for faster graphics and processors. Also, Apple could continue to build in dedicated graphics chips, as opposed to integrated graphics seen in the Air, in the 15 and 17-inch models. All of this could be crammed in the smaller space, and still have a big enough thermal envelope to handle the faster internals*.
In other words, I believe the a generation of MacBook Pros will be released in the next year or so, that will offer the same performance professionals expect, while being significantly thinner than current MacBook Pros. Although I believe they will be thinner, I think they will remain thicker than the MacBook Airs, at least for now, due to the limits of current, thermal, storage, and battery technology.
Thinner, just not “MacBook Air” thin. Not just yet anyway.
*The MacBook Air’s thinner size, and thus smaller thermal envelope, prevents Apple from putting the fastest internals in the machines. It would simply be too hot internally for the computer to run at any length of time.