MacBook Air Pro: Apple to combine notebook lineup, says source

Macbook Air AppleAn accessory maker close to Apple has revealed the impending release of a 15-inch MacBook Air, according to the UK website Electricpig. The anonymous source, which the website claims is a “key player in MacBook docking solutions,” disclosed the information Tuesday at Computers Unlimited Exposed, a UK Mac accessories exhibition.

Although details were limited (and relatively unsurprising), the new 15-inch Air will allegedly include ports on both sides, and be wholly devoid of an optical drive and Ethernet connectivity, precisely mimicking the present Air lineup. A refresh of the current 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air line has been expected for this April, and although the source suggested an introduction of the 15-inch Air at that time, he could not speak to the popular Pro line disappearing completely.

We’ve checked out the guest list for CU Exposed, and concluded that the anonymous source may be Henge Docks, an Arlington, VA based accessories company that started making pretty nifty MacBook docks in 2007. Henge released its first dock for the MacBook Air in January of this year.

Since its release in 2008, the MacBook Air has grown into an unbridled success for Apple. After a 2010 refresh introduced faster processors, fully solid-state storage, and a diminutive 11-inch model to compliment the original 13-inch, sales have risen steeply. Accounting for only eight percent of notebook purchases before the 2010 update, the MacBook Air now represents almost one-third of total MacBook sales, according to Apple Insider. Due to the hasty retirement of the white plastic MacBook last year, we can however deduce that Apple still relies on the MacBook Pro line for its bread and butter, representing the majority two-thirds of notebook sales. This fact alone would make it unlikely that Apple would simply kill off the Pro’s completely — traditional mechanical hard drives still offer vast storage at a fractional cost of the Air’s solid-state equivalent, and many users out there still require an optical drive, whether for ripping music and video on the go, or simply to take advantage of widely available CD and DVD media. If a melding of the lines were to occur, the 17-inch MacBook Pro — which may be configured with a High-Resolution display, a favorite of designers and photo editors — would likely remain available, according to the source.

Always Moving

But simply assuming that Apple will stick with a bulky optical drive configuration for posterity’s sake when it has aggressively pushed toward flash and cloud-based storage in every other facet of its business would be an unwise bet. Apple has historically been a company willing to adapt to new technology, and quickly. It’s initial instinct to forego an optical drive in the original Air was seen as a great risk by many. And its more recent inclusion of Thunderbolt ports in all new Mac models is a gamble on an embryonic technology that still doesn’t have much of a third-party following, Apple’s own superlative Thunderbolt displays notwithstanding. And who can forget FireWire, that noble standard that eventually became synonymous with why Macs were different, even though it was, in the end, a great technology that still to this day has many superior qualities over USB. We certainly can’t say one way or another, but it wouldn’t be the first time Apple has surprised us.

The most recent quarterly earnings results, in which Apple posted record-shattering sales, demonstrated more plainly than ever how much Apple has changed as a company since it dropped “computer” from its name. The nearly 5 million Macs sold were eclipsed by the 17 million iPhones and 11 million iPads, meaning that today’s Apple is first and foremost a mobile company. The MacBook Air line, up to this point, has been a relative experiment in merging the mobile world with the old paradigm of the PC. If we choose to view OS X Mountain Lion’s iOS inspired updates as a harbinger of things to come, a 15-inch MacBook Air would be further proof of where the future of Apple lies.

Image Credit: Cult of Mac

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