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."
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.