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Apple Tells MacBook Pro to Lose a Few

Apple Tells MacBook Pro to Lose a Few

The next generation of MacBook Pros will reportedly feature a dramatically redesigned form resembling that of the MacBook Air. The skinnier and lighter Pro models will apparently tout long battery life and will drop the optical drive, relying instead on the sort of over-the-Net distribution of software and media found in the Mac App Store and iTunes.

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Feb 13, 2012 10:35 AM PT

Apple is reportedly planning a substantial design overhaul for its MacBook Pro line. The company's next generation of high-end laptop computers will be thinner, lighter notebooks that closely resemble MacBook Airs and feature extended battery life, according to a report from Apple Insider.

Traditional hard drives will be replaced with flash-memory-based solid-state drives. Optical drives will not be included, emphasizing the use of online software distribution exemplified by Apple's Mac App Store.

The sleeker, more mobile design described in the report will closely resemble Apple's line of MacBooks Air computers. The Air is one of several ultra-thin laptops on the market. Chipmaker Intel has spearheaded a movement toward thinner computers with its Ultrabook effort.

A new 15-inch MacBook Pro could be released as early as this spring, with the older, thicker models being phased out by the end of the year.

Apple did not respond to our requests for comment.

Logical Next Step

"Apple has always been a leader in product design. I would expect that any new devices would offer all of these features and more," Tim Brunt, senior analyst of personal computing & technology at IDC Canada told MacNewsWorld.

As consumers continue to use laptops in a variety of settings or with travel, many are looking for a less bulky product to lug around.

"The trend in technology since the introduction of tablets is to make devices lighter, thinner and more mobile for consumers on the go," Michael Stanat, research executive at SIS International, told MacNewsWorld. "However, the difference between the MacBook Air and Pro concerns performance and capabilities."

Some of the latest advances in technology have closed the gap between many of those performance capabilities, however.

"This is a reflection of the major strides in processors, casing, battery technology and SSD, which allows Apple and others to toss the older laptop designs aside and move most of the laptops of the future to thinner and lighter models," Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told MacNewsWorld.

Even dropping a feature as familiar as the optical drive is an option now, as consumers increasingly realy on streaming services or digital downloads for video and other media consumption. In fact, the move away from a CD/DVD drive could ensure that more customers head toward iTunes and the Mac App Store for content.

"Apple has also built a very large business around the digital transmission of content, and removing the optical drive will make that reliance on the iTunes even stronger," said Brunt.

iPad's Still Alive

Carving the MacBook Pro's chassis down to an extra-thin profile could blur the line between the company's Pro and Air series of products. Already it's unclear whether sales of iPads have perhaps been crowding out lower-end sales of the MacBook Air. However, between the Pro and the Air, the company will most likely still have room for both products rather than this being the start of a slow melding of the two, said Stanat.

"As the difference between the products is based more on performance features, the laptop products have an opportunity to better meet the needs of different segments and demographics," Stanat concluded.

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