Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

Summary: Apple is reportedly prepping the next MacBook Air -- but this time, it's sporting an 11.6-inch display and an "Intel Core i-series ultra-low voltage processor."

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Well, this is quite an interesting rumor.

Apple is "ready to launch" the next generation MacBook Air, according to a DigiTimes report -- but this time, it's sporting an 11.6-inch display and an "Intel Core i-series ultra-low voltage processor."

Hmm.

The date for such a device -- with an "even slimmer and lighter design" than the existing version -- is pegged for the second half of 2010.

The report also suggests a new iPod touch is coming "in August or September," sporting a 3-megapixel camera and Apple's A4 processor, which is also used in the iPhone 4 and iPad.

Let's break this down.

I buy the iPod touch news, mainly because Apple has proven that new iPods soon receive iPhone technology -- in fact, almost every year, usually a week after the company's annual "Back to School" sale (buy a Mac, get a free iPod) ends.

But what's more curious is the MacBook Air. There's no doubt the system needs a refresh, since it's been virtually unchanged, barring an internal upgrade, since it was first announced in 2008.

But the size is perplexing. The current Air has a 13.3-inch display, the same size as the MacBook and smallest MacBook Pro. The device is a favorite for roving executives, who like its compact profile and "wow" factor.

The DigiTimes report didn't suggest if the supposed 11.6-inch model would be in addition to a 13-incher, but either way, it's confusing. An 11.6-inch size would put the device firmly in wrist-throbbing "netbook" territory, even if it doesn't imitate that segment's use of older technology. "Thin and light" is more appropriate for the rumored device, but usually these systems are 12.1 and 13.3 inches -- like the original MacBook Air.

Compounding the problem is the iPad, which has demonstrated a knack for making laptops, with their clamshell physique and physical keyboards, feel a bit of a burden for content consumption and basic creation. (You might not want to edit photos on an iPad, but it's plenty useful for reading a book, arranging your schedule or cleaning out the ol' inbox.)

Where does an 11.6-inch MacBook Air fit in? Apple has always been great at keeping its product line simple -- some would say too simple -- and covering all areas with as few devices as possible. (For example, there's no cheap 17-inch MacBook. Want to go big? You'll get a price tag to match.)

But I'm having a hard time finding a use case for such a device. The 13.3-inch MacBook Air is an "executive's MacBook" -- that is, not powerful enough to be a "Pro" but made with greater aspirations than the basic MacBook.

But an 11.6-incher? That seems to encroach on the iPad's territory, which carries a 9.7-inch touchscreen display without the weight or fustiness of a clamshell profile or physical keyboard.

I'm sure there are people out there who might like such a device, but to me, there's too much overlap. An 11.6-inch laptop, however "executive" in execution, doesn't seem to mesh with Apple's current product line.

Beg to differ? Post your take in the comments.

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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14 comments
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  • I'd be interested in one.

    I feel the loss of the 12" PowerBook has gone on for too long.
    ye
    • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

      @ye
      The problem is the 16x9 screen size. It is fine for video, but if you want to get any work done, more screen height would be useful. Let's go back to the old 4x3 screen size.
      jorjitop
    • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

      It's been a long time wish to own a macbook air for once

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  • Perhaps Apple is (finally) seeing a missed opportunity?

    I've been on this rampage for a while now (http://macbigot.com/?p=911 ).

    For those who have seen HP's mini 230 HD (10.1" display at 1366x768), it's clear the notion of all netbooks being too much compromise and too little value is fading fast. On HP's build-to-order site, I got mine with the upgraded video card, added bluetooth, and left everything else standard -- and now carry a $409 netbook (sporting an Apple sticker) that I wish had come not from HP, but the company known for leading industrial design and refining ideas left to wither due to poor quality. Netbooks would have been a perfect area for Apple to say, "HERE -- THIS is what all those other companies would have created if they'd had Jonathan Ives..."

    Instead, they created a whole new space in the market (which Microsoft had failed at, though they'd tried) with the iPad -- and I think that's great, for consumers. But for Creators, it would be much more of a tool if it ran Adobe Illustrator, and could connect to FTP sites, and standardized ports, and (you get the idea).

    The Air getting 'downsized' may be a step in the right direction for people like me -- so it would increase my optimism in the platform. But with only one USB port and no ethernet, it might still be seen as an executive toy.

    What about those of us 'in the trenches'? The netbook format has many features stripped already (horsepower, optical drives, screen real estate); Apple should be looking to improve upon that -- not simple remove MORE. To me, the whole concept of the Air was a lame attempt at getting maybe two people in the enterprise to notice the Apple brand. Now that we've done that (or not), let's move on...
    macbigot
    • The downsize might have to do with the new LCDs...

      @macbigot The downsize might have to do with the new LCDs Apple is using on the iPhone. They may be shrinking the overall laptop without sacrificing a legible screen.
      olePigeon
  • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

    Mac Pro, NOT MacBook Air, is sorely needed and this is causing immense frustration.
    wickachicken
  • FOXXCONN prepping...

    ...Apple "badging".
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool
  • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

    This could be seen as the "iPad with a keyboard" that many people seem to want, rather than the "executive notebook" that I'm not sure anybody wants. I was actually expecting a move in the other direction: a 17" MacBook Air. Talk about a "WOW" factor -- that would be king of the hill for a very long time.
    jpdemers1
  • I don't see the problem

    The Fujitsu U/G90N and the Vaio P are executive favorites worldwide for their wow-factor.

    I don't see the problem with an 11 inch Mac Book in an "Air" form factor.
    croberts
  • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

    A man tells the computer salesman... This one is too small. And this one is too big. The salesman says .. What about this one, right between those two? The customer says yeah! Just what I wanted, buys it and leaves happy, mnot caring in the least about "overlap".
    Serton
  • RE: Report: Apple prepping 11.6-in. MacBook Air, new iPod touch

    perhaps you need to look at the larger world (non apple)
    Laptops went through the bigger is better stage which resulted in people who found they had a portable device that really wasn't that portable (try lugging a 17" around Europe) then overreacting and buying 7~10" net-books.

    However both well before and throughout all this there has been a steady experienced base of traveling users who have keep with the sensible 11.5~13" practical sizes.
    All apple is doing is recognizing the impotence of this!
    A 12" notepad is still the ultimate laptop for true travel, not a 13.5".
    toviz
  • IF ONLY....

    The 11" MacBook Air would have suited my needs if it had come a little sooner.

    My work/home workhorse is a loaded 15" Mac Book Pro, which I am devoted to, but it's too heavy for the travel & portability I sometimes require. When the iPad came out, I decided that, alas, a Mac netbook was probably not coming any time soon. I needed an ultraportable for personal use -- the volume of typing & file choices I need can't be handled by iPad -- and after several weeks of reading/comparing, I settled on an Asus 1018PB, which I'm very pleased with... 3 USB ports, webcam, chiclet keys, very long battery life. I don't miss the optical drive at all.

    BUT -- it's a Windows machine which for me will never be as good. I'd love to have had a small & light Mac netbook IF Apple put all the right stuff on it. My guess is that they won't. I'm VP of an all-Mac company, and Apple may be rah-rah when it comes to pleasing the customers; but sometimes I'm not sure they actually consider the niche market for their products and equip them accordingly. Apple is about "cool"... first and foremost.
    acro47
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