Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The 12-Inch MacBook Air

What a scoop for Mark Gurman — who else could it be? — at 9to5Mac:

Apple is preparing an all-new MacBook Air for 2015 with a radically new design that jettisons standards such as full-sized USB ports, MagSafe connectors, and SD card slots in favor of a markedly thinner and lighter body with a higher-resolution display.

If this scoop is true, it’s yet another example of Gurman’s incredibly high level of sources inside Apple. Impressive.

There’s one word conspicuously absent from Gurman’s reporting, though: “Retina”. He does mention a higher-resolution display and the post is tagged with “Retina Display”, but he doesn’t say either way whether this is the Retina MacBook Air.

It makes sense either way, too. Perhaps in favour of this being a non-Retina product, this part of Gurman’s report:

The upcoming 12-inch Air has the fewest amount of ports ever on an Apple computer, as can be seen in the rendition above. On the right side is a standard headphone jack and dual-microphones for input and noise-canceling. On the left side is solely the new USB Type-C port. Yes, Apple is currently planning to ditch standard USB ports, the SD Card slot, and even its Thunderbolt and MagSafe charging standards on this new notebook. We must note that Apple tests several designs of upcoming products, so Apple may choose to ultimately release a new Air that does include the legacy components, though there is very little space on the edges for them.

Why would Apple drop so many ports and connectors from the Air, especially something as useful and distinctively “Apple” as MagSafe? Power. Each port draws a little bit of power, so reducing the number of ports should reduce power consumption. So, too, should using Intel’s Broadwell chipset at a low clock speed, and removing the fans. A Retina display might be incompatible with this vision of low-power, impossibly-long-lasting computing.

This reminds me of the original MacBook Air, from 2008. It had just four ports: MagSafe, micro DVI, USB, and headphone. For comparison, the MacBook Pro of the time had at least seven ports, if you count the ExpressCard slot as one. Today’s MacBook Air has five ports on the 11-inch model, and adds an SD card reader on the 13-inch. Perhaps this is merely a way of realigning the Air with its original core premise.

In 2010, Apple promised that, one day, all notebooks would be like the Air. Now, the Air is the “default” MacBook, and it’s hard for a lot of people to see why they’d pay the extra money for a Retina MacBook Pro. Apple has almost never competed on price, but on actual feature differentiation. As their notebook lineup looks increasingly like a bunch of different MacBook Air models, maybe this is an opportunity for them to differentiate the lineup.

On the other hand, maybe this product is the culmination of a bunch of different rumours. Maybe this is the 12-inch Retina MacBook Air and the long-rumoured ARM-powered MacBook. Which makes it kind of like that rumoured “iPad Pro”, except this entire report clearly describes a MacBook, not an iPad.

Of course, this is all based on speculation and rumours. But it’s from Gurman, and he’s kind of a clairvoyant.