7 predictions for the next-gen MacBook Air

Rumor has it that the next MacBook Air will ship this fall

Apple, MacBook Air, Mac, OS X, USB-C, Retina, laptops, rumor

With so much focus on iPhone and iPad, it’s easy to forget Apple also makes Macs. Recent speculation claims the next MacBook Air upgrade may appear this fall. Here’s what to expect:

Skylake is falling

A set of supposedly leaked specifications for Intel’s upcoming Skylake processors suggests some of the technical improvements we can anticipate within future MacBook Air models. As revealed by FanlessTech, the great and the good of the Mac rumor Web appear to have coalesced around the expectation these Macs will use chips from either/both the Core i5-6200U (2.3GHz and 2.4GHz) and Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz and 2.6GHz). The processors offer integrated Intel HD 520 graphics and are built using Intel’s new 14-nanometer architecture.

Faster, better battery life

That use of smaller process architecture should translate into up to 30 percent better battery life, around 34 percent faster graphics and a 10-20 percent CPU performance improvement in comparison to the Broadwell chips used inside existing models. These Macs will deliver even longer battery life and better performance.

Force Touch

MacBooks do it. MacBook Pros do it. Let’s do it – let’s put a Force Touch trackpad inside the MacBook Air. This addition makes complete sense as Apple looks to deploy its new user interface paradigm across its product range, and while critics don’t think Force Touch will help the company sell too many smartphones or Macs, they kind of miss the point; this is about introducing a new user interface solution to enable new breeds of easy-to-navigate yet extraordinarily powerful applications. I’ve written extensively on Force Touch, so rather than repeating myself please take a look at these links:

Apple’s Force Touch trackpad: What you need to know

Apple’s Force Touch – the future of mobile interfaces

11 Force Touch commands for Mac users

USB C, Retina display

Fool.com has speculated the new MacBook Air will adopt the same USB-C port as the MacBook, meaning power and peripherals will run through a single interconnect, though the model was only recently upgraded to Thunderbolt 2. The move to Skylake chips with their lower power demands and improved graphics handling may (we hope) also usher in a Retina display on MacBook Air – but will it be Retina HD? Wait and see.

Maybe, maybe not

Apple rumors are a weird bunch – sometimes they’re right, they’re often wrong -- so it’s important to be skeptical. Some claims make little sense -- Venture Capital Post, for example, predicts these Macs will carry up to 512GB built-in flash memory (even though this is currently a build-to-order option) with up to 8GB or internal RAM. There are some claims the new MacBook Air models will be up to $100 cheaper and there was a little speculation earlier in the year that Apple would begin adding TouchID to Macs with this model. But I’m taking this with a large pinch of salt. For now.

When will it ship?

With Intel set to ship its new chip in the fall and claims from within Apple’s manufacturing partners suggesting the company will be ramping up 2H2015 production, it seems likely these new Macs will be with us by around October/November – though reports earlier in the year suggested March 2016 release and the new Intel chips were not expected to hit mass production until Q4, so this may slip.

Windows 10

These Macs are likely to generate a lot of interest, particularly among enterprise users looking to use both Windows 10 and OS X given the Wall Street Journal’s recent review of the experience of using one with the other and Apple's addition of support for the new Microsoft OS within OS X's Boot Camp.

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