Apple's Sandy Bridge MacBook Air goes into production

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] is preparing to upgrade the future of mobile Macs with a MacBook Air upgrade that's set to go into production this month for launch later this summer.


Thunderbolt I/O to go

Equipped with Intel's new Sandy Bridge processor, the new ultra-light notebooks seem set to be even thinner than before, with the inclusion of the Intel/Apple Thunderbolt I/O platform. Both 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch MacBook Air upgrades are planned, Digitimes reports.

Despite recent widely-reported supply chain challenges, Apple has held firm to its promise to try to stay true to its existing suppliers: the new MacBook Air's will be manufactured by Quanta. Catcher Technology will provide cases, while Auras Technology, Shin Zu Shing, Simplo Technology and Dynapack, Digitimes claims, though it admits this information is based on industry sources and has not been verified by the companies concerned.

When it comes to launching the new notebooks, Apple is most likely to target a June launch, that's if it wants to take full advantage of the anticipated up-tick in notebook sales which commences that month.

The future of the Mac?

Apple shipped 2.751 million notebook PCs in the first quarter of 2011, down 5 per cent sequentially but up an impressive 53 per cent year-on-year.

However, the company faces renewed competition, with HP, Dell, Asustek all set to offer thin notebook PCs, "but these models are inferior to MacBook Air in thickness due to consideration of production costs and sales price," the report claims.

Certainly, pressure will be on Apple's senior VP Mac Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield. Speaking during Apple's Q2 2011 financial call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer explained Mac sales growth in the quarter has been fueled by MacBook Air.

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"The growth in Mac sales was fueled primarily by the continued great popularity of MacBook Air, which was updated in the December quarter, as well as very strong sales of MacBook Pro. We updated the entire MacBook Pro family during the March quarter with the next-generation processors and graphics, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology and a new FaceTime HD camera," he said.

WWDC gets more excitingIntroduction of the new models is well-starred, with Apple's WWDC event scheduled for next month, an event during which the company is expected to unfurl further features for its currently in-development Lion OS, which is expected to introduce iOS features to the Mac OS.

You could perhaps consider the MacBook Air to be the iPad Pro.

"We've taken what we have learned with the iPad -- solid state storage, instant-on, amazing battery standby time, miniaturization and lightweight construction, to create the new MacBook Air," said Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, introducing the current generation of the product in October 2010. " With its amazing responsiveness and mobility, it will change the way we think about notebooks."

New iOS features are likely to include development of a 'Find My Mac' feature, similar in effect to the 'Find My iPhone' feature much-love by UK sports star, Will Carling.

Remote Wipe for notebooks

The use of Sandy Bridge processors (which run at up to 3.4GHz, though that's unlikely in a mobile configuration) will potentially enable MacBook Air owners to remotely erase their drives in the event their Macs are lost or stolen, a great benefit to enterprise customers.

Apple's new super-light Macs will hit retail in June or July, the report claims -- so don't expect these models this weekend.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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