What should the next MacBook look like? Cost?

Now that the Apple tablet device is a nearly-accepted fact, it remains readily apparent that the company's three-year-old polycarbonate MacBook needs a serious overhaul.

Now that the Apple tablet device is a nearly-accepted fact, it remains readily apparent that the company's three-year-old polycarbonate MacBook needs a serious overhaul.

While Apple has quietly updated the laptop's innards -- the $999 machine sports a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up to 4GB of RAM, up to 500GB in storage and FireWire 400 port -- the standard MacBook sticks out as an example of a previous Apple design scheme, disconnected from the glass-and-metal style that unifies its MacBook Pro and Air notebooks, iMac and Mac Pro desktops and iPhone and iPod devices.

A recent AppleInsider report notes that "Apple's entry-level polycarbonate MacBooks are on the verge of a refresh that will solidify them at the base of the Mac maker's notebook offerings for the foreseeable future, AppleInsider has learned."

The changes? "An industrial design overhaul that will see them reemerge in the coming months with a slimmer, lighter enclosure and restructured internal architecture to boot," according to the report.

That's a very good thing, because this laptop is more crucial to the company's laptop sales than the MacBook Pro lineup is. As the entry-level Mac notebook, sales of the system have been brisk (outselling all except the iMac) in light of a tough economy -- but that doesn't mean the "legacy" style of the system doesn't need a good refresh.

The question is whether the design changes will bring it in line with the MacBook Pro lineup or hint at a new design direction for Apple products.

Additionally, it's unclear whether Apple plans to split the single MacBook model into several models, priced accordingly. (My aggressive guess? $799 and $999. We'll see if I'm right in due time.)

Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan first pointed out the lingering style of the original Macbook, but presumed that the tablet could replace the device entirely. I never quite bought that argument, since the uses for a Macbook and that of a tablet PC -- especially one that resembles an iPod touch -- are different.

Regardless of the purpose, the MacBook's position at the low end of Apple's price range means any changes will affect more people than the MacBook Pro lineup's refresh ever will.

What do you want to see in the next MacBook?