One of the biggest surprises of Macworld 2008 (besides USB only MacBook Air) was the lack of an announcement on the professional line of Apple laptops. Most pundits, myself included were expecting these to come out last week.
That doesn't mean Apple's pro customers are going to have to wait much longer. A few of the stars are aligning that may bring Apple's flagship laptops a much needed upgrade within the next few months.
The biggest factor are Intel's new 45nm mobile Penryn chips. While the obvious choice for the MacBook Pros (fastest processors built for mobile computing, less heat, smaller size, etc.), word is trickling in that they have been delayed due to an issue with the thermal sensors. According to the report/rumor they won't be available in large numbers until the end of February. If true, Apple may have intended to announce these new Pro machines at Macworld but were forced to delay because of the chip shortage.
MacBook Air's touchpad is also coming to MacBook Pros and probably MacBooks as well. Little else at Apple is getting as much attention lately as the Touch interface. With the experience of putting a multi-touch interface on the MacBook Air, there is nothing that indicates that Apple designers won't bring the same functionality to the MacBook Pros. In fact, one has to wonder if Apple won't enable this functionality on current MacBook Pros via a software update. 10.5.2 perhaps?
MacBook Air is a radical departure from in design from Apple's other notebook computers. Thin is indeed "in" at Apple. I expect that Apple will use some of these design elements in the upcoming MacBook Pros. We know they aren't going back to the old-style Pro keyboard that is currently on MacBook Pros.
The Solid State Drive (SSD) boot disk also made its Apple debut last week on the MacBook Air. While only taking up the space of an iPod drive and delivering much more performance, endurance and battery life than traditional hard drives, it is a natural for Apple's pro line. The question is: how will it be implemented? The 64Gb SSD is around $1000 and is hardly enough room for a Pro user. Perhaps it is time for Apple to look into a two drive system on the high end? A 16-32Gb boot/cache/system solid state disk with the user accounts on a traditional hard drive (and libraries/applications on either) might make the most sense if they can package it right. There is much more space in the pro machines to do something like this. The mind boggles at the possibilities.
In any case, if you can hold out for a MacBook Pro, you might want to wait until late February when those Penryn mobile chips are shipping en masse. Who knows? - you might even get some surprises thrown in.
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