Macworld Rumors: MacBooks

3 01 2008

For the coming days leading up to Macworld, I will be releasing a series of articles focused on specific rumors slated for Macworld 2008.

Todays article is about the rumored ‘ultra-portable’ laptop.

The MacBook Future

Probably the biggest rumor going for Macworld this year has to be the ‘ultra-portable’ MacBook. The rumor has been floating around for years, resurfacing many times over the years! In 2003, ‘The Year of the Notebook’, Apple introduced a 12″ and 17″ PowerBook to diversify the lineup. Going way back, the PowerBook 2400 was considered a true ‘ultra-portable’ and included an external Floppy drive. Now more than ever, the rumor seems realistic except- Steve Jobs doesn’t like having of external optical drives.

I came this realization recently, which added to the skepticism I have surrounding the ‘ultra-portable’ without an optical drive. Jobs can be heard while introducing the iBook G3 comparing the new laptop to other competitors at the time. At minute 9:41, Steve says:

“Some people leave optical drives out of notebooks. We think people need optical drives in their notebooks, so we build them in.”

But, this doesn’t mean that the rumor is out- just because Jobs doesn’t like something does not mean that it won’t happen! Also, this was a couple of years ago now!

I think that in Macworld we will definitely see new laptops of some kind. Whether they are ‘ultra-portable’, I can’t say for sure. It is true, that if you look at (or open up) a MacBook Pro, you can see that almost a quarter of the surface area is taken up with the optical drive- and lets face it: physical media is on its way out! Just like Jobs cut ADB for USB or Floppy disks, we can be certain that in the future (maybe the near one) we will no longer have optical drives. However, at this point in time, I think an optional external optical drive isn’t ideal- and I think Apple agrees at this point in time, unless this new laptop is dirt cheap. ($599? $699? $799)?

The Verdict: I can confidently say that there will be new laptops at Macworld- both the MacBook Pro and MacBook lines have seen little design changes since their introduction almost 2 years ago. If this design change includes a new ‘portable’ model, will remain to be seen- but the chances are in favor. There is a large hole in Apple’s laptop lineup- there is no small or cheap laptop! Yes, Apple, $1099 isn’t cheap- sorry.

What to expect:

•New Laptops- Either consumer or Pro, both are due for an update! (100% chance)

What is possible:

•Ultra-Portable (80% chance)
•No Optical Drive/Optional Internal Drive (do I hear DVD Rentals to tide us over, Steve?)
•Multi-Touch Trackpad- Would coincide with patent filings. (50% chance)
•Blu-Ray Optical Drives- Hey, Apple (and Disney) does support the Blu-Ray camp! (10% chance)
•Flash Based- some were initially reporting the ultra-portable would be flash based. The flash memory industry is not ready for this, from the poor read/write speeds to great expense and small capacity. Physical storage is here for a while. [Note this applies to a Flash based hard drive] (0% chance)

Steve Jobs Optical Drives
Steve Jobs hating on external optical drives



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