Apple laptop rumors abound

In the final hours before Tuesday's event, new aluminum machines are predicted.

By Cyrus Farivar
Published October 14, 2008 3:20PM (EDT)

For those of you who don't keep your eyes glued to the Internet in search of the latest Apple rumors, today is the long-awaited day for fans of Apple laptops. The company is expected to announce the latest version of its MacBook and MacBook Pro models at an Apple event to be held at 1 Infinite Loop Tuesday (it starts at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT).

So, what should we expect?

The rumor mills, which seem surprisingly uniform this time around, have coalesced on Apple's laptop lineup, which hasn't seen much change, design-wise, in a couple of years. The MacBook was originally released two and a half years ago -- nearly an eternity in the computer world -- and it has gotten basically only minor speed bumps along the way.

Everyone's all excited about this blurry photo, which Engadget published earlier. It shows a glossy screen, a black keyboard and a single button/trackpad, with MacBook Pro written just above the keyboard as expected.

John Gruber, one of the premier Apple watchers, pronounced the photo as "the real deal," and added:

The new trackpad is similar to the Air's, in that it is bigger and supports additional multi-touch gestures. But unlike the Air's, the MacBook Pro's new trackpad is made of glass, and is a button itself. You just press and it clicks. This is not like the current software option where you can enable "Tap to Click" in the trackpad preferences, but instead a glass trackpad that acts as a physical button, with a click you can feel. Sounds odd, but I hear it's very cool in practice.

What else?

Gruber says that the MacBook Pro will have beefed-up processing power through a neat hardware trick that lets graphics cards act sorta like processors. In this case, it's via two new NVIDIA graphics cards, the 9400M and the 9600M GT. Some Apple watchers have pointed out that some PC laptops have two graphics cards -- one goes dark to conserve battery power when the machine isn't plugged in.

Gruber also denounces the oft-cited rumors that Apple will be releasing an $800 laptop, saying that only the existing 2.1GHz MacBook will drop to $1,000, while the next two levels will get the new design at $1,300 and $1,500 versions. (Others are still sticking to this lower price point.)

There's also various chatter that Apple could release a smaller device, a tablet, if you will. But Apple's style is to go for the upsell, not a small device that would potentially eat into the fast-moving sales of iPhones, which is exactly the tablet that everyone already has.

Curiously, there's also the question of Apple's possible new production method, using a single brick of aluminum from which to carve the MacBooks and the MacBook Pros.

As BusinessWeek reported last week: "Using a single piece of metal would also provide the opportunity for the kind of design flourishes that distinguish Apple and its chief executive, Steve Jobs. Screws might be minimized or eliminated entirely. Seams joining different pieces of metal would disappear. In short, these notebooks would be unlike anything else on the market in appearance and design."

Based on these rumors alone, personally, as a cheapskate -- I pretty much buy the cheapest MacBook (or its equivalent predecessor, the iBook) every year -- I'm not that stoked on the design or hardware innovations as of yet. Frankly, this aluminum production process could be the neatest thing announced today, if it turns out to be true. But then again, Jobs (almost) never disappoints.

We'll know for sure in T-minus a couple of hours.

(Via Apple 2.0)

Cyrus Farivar

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