Thoughts and Speculation about the 12″ MacBook Air

The leaked specs and artist’s rendering of Apple’s alleged 12″ MacBook Air are a radical move for Apple laptops, particularly in that they are getting rid of most of the ports in favor of just two: a USB Type C connector, and a headphone jack.

Coincidentally, the iPad and iPhones have just a headphone jack and a power/peripheral connector.
Trying to strip down an OS X device even further to make it have incredible portability feels like a challenging move. I’m wondering if this fabled device might not be a miniaturization of a desktop Mac laptop, but instead, a more productivity-driven version of the iPad.
Here are some thoughts that led me to think that:
  • Chromebooks are quietly growing in popularity, especially with schools and other places where people just want a radically simple device to use. An iOS device that is more laptop-like is a lot more full-featured of a device than a laptop-like device that can only be a web browser.
  • To get desktop Macs to the next level of portability you have to strip out features to reduce the device’s size. You have to make the processors more power efficient and possibly weaker to get that battery life.
  • iPads don’t need to be stripped; they are very powerful and have great battery life.
  • A more laptop-like iPad is less portable; it’s very easy for Apple to achieve a device like that than making a MacBook approach iPad levels of battery life.
  • Apple’s been doing an increasing amount with making iOS more conducive to productivity
    • the switch from specific sizes to “size classes” for apps so that iOS apps can run on a variety of device sizes. This will likely lead to a mode this year for having many apps on screen at once. At the very least, it’s evidence that Apple wants to be able to experiment with a variety of device sizes without making developers do a redesign every time.
    • extensions let apps talk to each other with greater ease
    • The iPad Air 2 is more desktop-class than ever before. It’s a powerful machine that can be used for just about anyone’s everyday computing needs.
  • Right now iPads are as little as a few hundred dollars. Apple could command a premium for a laptop version of an iPad and have more comfortable margins, as opposed to trying to reduce the price of a Mac and compress their margins more.
  • I struggle to see Apple releasing a new, non-Retina device in 2015. If this were a MacBook Air, I struggle to see how they can get Retina resolution in such a tiny, fanless design. But if this were an iPad, that’s a no-brainer.
  • Though an older, more stubborn Apple would never have added a physical keyboard to an iOS device, the new Apple is more willing to try things it previously snubbed.
  • The leaks talked only about hardware. Nothing explicitly said it’d run OS X.
  • The number of Macs Apple’s selling is growing. iPad sales are plateauing. Apple could be aiming to grow iPad sales by making an iPad that looks like a Mac. A lot of customers could probably buy an iPad as their main computer but are anxious about the fact that it’s so different-looking.
This is purely speculation and I could be totally off on this and there is some evidence of that:
  • It’s absolutely precedented for Apple to keep pushing laptops to get thinner and smaller and have more battery life.
    • This 12″ Air feels about as radical as the original Air felt when it first was released in 2008 in terms of the fact that it loses all those ports (people felt a little anxious about losing the optical drive!)
  • The leaked 12″ Air had a trackpad, and it was specifically mentioned as not having a clicker on it (possibly in favor of taptic feedback). Would Apple really add a mouse cursor to iOS? That would surprise me.
    • A trackpad doesn’t mean that Apple’s adding a cursor, though. It could just mean that Apple’s adding a way to pan and scroll without reaching up. Time will tell.
  • The new laptop design is coinciding with the availability of new chips from Intel that are making this possible. Apple wouldn’t use Intel chips in an iOS device.
    • Granted, the new Intel chip could just be a coincidence.
  • Using an iOS device’s multitouch in a laptop mode is a little awkward.
    • Then again, that could be why the trackpad’s coming.
  • The keyboard in the rendering had function keys. An iOS device wouldn’t really need those, and if it had one, therre wouldn’t be any F1, F2, etc. labels
    • But it’s important to note that those photos are renderings and not actual photos of real hardware. 
Although I can throw together enough evidence and ideas to make a case that this new device could be iOS-enabled, it could just be wishful thinking on my part. Although a 12″ MacBook Air running OS X is certainly a leap forward and interesting, making an iOS device with that same form factor is super interesting. 

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