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Apple rumor: 15-inch MacBook Air due in Q1 of 2012

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Apple is purportedly preparing to release a 15-inch version of its increasingly popular line of ultra-thin and light MacBook Air laptops in the first quarter of 2012, reports DigiTimes. New 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models are also expected to debut.

According to the report, a number of “related upstream players” have already begun “pilot production” of the new models of MacBook Airs.

This should come as no surprise, however; earlier this month, we heard rumors that manufacturers had begun receiving components for the larger MacBook Air model, and that Apple would release the newest iterations of their market-leading ultrabook by March of next year, which is the start of the second quarter. If accurate, this newest report simply moves the release date up one to three months.

A new, larger MacBook Air makes sense for Apple, as competitors are expected to debut as many as 50 new ultrabook models at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in January. Until now, Apple has had fairly light competition in this market segment.

We’ve seen this type of movement before. Following the release of the iPad, many Apple challengers released their own tablets, only to be trounced by Apple again and again. Seeing as Apple’s MacBook Airs have a starting price of $999 (for the 11.6-inch model), it seems likely that there is a huge market for PC ultrabooks that won’t make such a dent on the wallet.