The latest rumors going around about Apple’s next laptop revamp are pretty interesting. While Apple itself hasn’t released any information on new laptops, a recent note from a trusted Apple analyst offers some intriguing clues about where the company is headed in this space.
According to 9 to 5 Mac, citing KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the new laptop will take “thinner and lighter” design elements from the new MacBook introduced in March 2015. It may have the option to unlock your computer with your fingerprint, using the Touch ID technology already on the iPhone. And it may have a small touchscreen bar running above the keyboard to take over the functions of the, um, function keys that sit there now.
Previous patents have shown that Apple has considered at least making the keyboard into one big touchscreen. But while Apple’s certainly blending the lines between the Mac and iPhone, it doesn’t seem quite ready to go that far yet.
The laptop is also supposed to get two USB-C ports. That’s one more than the current MacBook, which uses a single USB-C port to charge and connect to whatever else you may want to plug into your computer. According to Kuo, the laptops won’t be on the market until the fourth quarter of 2016, meaning after the back-to-school season that tends to be a big draw for laptops.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these rumors is how much it could further confuse what, exactly, is going on with Apple’s laptop lineup. It used to be really clear: You chose from the standard MacBook, the uber-powered but beefier MacBook Pro or the thin-and-light MacBook Air.
Now, however, the new MacBook is actually more like the Air line than anything else — in fact, it’s actually thinner and lighter — thanks to its super-sleek construction. The Pro line will also have a focus, it seems, on thin-and-light design. So the question, really, is what happens to the Air?
9 to 5 Mac’s informed speculation is that the Air will be reframed as the entry-point into the laptop line — it already sort of is, given that it is the cheapest model, but its lightweight appeal made it seem more premium in the past. The lighter MacBook introduced in 2015 will then become the middle of the line, and the Pro will remain on top, in terms of performance. Of course, we’ll have to see if the Air gets any revamps of its own, to see if that theory holds true.
The upshot for consumers is that it may be worth waiting just a little longer to upgrade your Mac while this shuffle plays out, even if it means not having a shiny new laptop at the start of the school year.
Apple sometimes offers updates to its hardware lines at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which this year runs from June 13 to 17. But the laptops aren’t expected to make an appearance there. What is likely to show up, however, is an update to the Mac OS — Mac OS 10.12, for those counting. That new system is expected to include integration with Siri — which would make the Mac even more like the iPhone.