We thought we might see new notebooks at Apple's education-orientated Field Trip event in Chicago at the end of March, although it ended up focussing on a new iPad instead. It could be that we'll get an announcement at WWDC 2018 (unlikely) but we do wonder whether Apple will do something between now and then instead.
So what are we expecting, MacBook-wise? There may a cheaper version of the MacBook which may or may not be called the MacBook Air - it could just be a 13-inch version of the existing MacBook, with the "Air" moniker shown the door. That's according to usually-reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
We don't yet know much about this all-new 13-inch MacBook, including what form it would take or how it would differ from existing 12-inch MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Pro models.
Remarkably, it's a decade since Steve Jobs pulled the original MacBook Air from a mailing envelope to introduce it. And the MacBook Air remains a strong seller for Apple, which is why a direct replacement is likely.
Why would there be a new MacBook Air?
- Still a good seller but current design is ageing
- Still room for a 13-inch ultraportable
The MacBook Air did get a few minor upgrades in 2017, but it's the only notebook in Apple's lineup that doesn't have a Retina display. And it hasn't had a major redesign for some time and is now getting a bit tired.
It's not the case design itself, but it doesn't have USB-C, for one thing. And it still uses MagSafe 2 for charging, unlike the MacBook and MacBook Pro.
Many had assumed Apple wanted the 12-inch MacBook to replace the MacBook Air.
However, due to the Air's affordability, sales have remained strong. And remember that not everybody wants such as small screen size. The 11-inch MacBook Air, was discontinued entirely.
And consider that the 13-inch MacBook Pro with no Touch Bar starts at £1,249 - £300 more than the entry-level Air model. And for most people, the power advantage of the Pro just isn't necessary.
New MacBook Air release date and price
- Could be coming soon, but more likely later in the year
- Will it match the existing MacBook Air on price?
We'd expect the MacBook Air refresh to take place over the next few months, possibly as soon as the end of March - though, as said, the Field Trip Apple event appears to be centred around iPad and Apple Pencil.
We've long expected hardware at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) that takes place in June, but it rarely happens so we reckon it will be before then. That would tie-in with the "Q2" expectation that has been put forward by analysts.
Crucially, it's thought that any MacBook Air replacement would be similarly priced, so slotting in underneath the MacBook in the lineup.
Apple MacBook and MacBook Air rumours: Specs
- Still Intel-based, but could this change in the future?
- Could have a co-processor
- Will have a retina LCD display
Expect the MacBook Air replacement to retain Intel Core i5 processors with an option for Core i7. Intel has just announced new versions of these CPUs under the codename Coffee Lake - marketed as 8th generation Intel Core processors.
Bloomberg recently reported that Apple was working on its very own custom co-processors to put into two new notebooks and a new desktop and DigiTimes reported that the tech giant was working on a new 13-inch MacBook model, although didn't explicitly state whether it was an Air or some other model.
Because of what Apple has done elsewhere, the company has considered developing its own ARM-based processors to run future MacBooks and the rumours are that an Apple-designed CPU may come to a future MacBook, possibly in a couple of years time.
And it's even more unlikely at the high end where the MacBook Pro offers users the kind of horsepower that can currently only come from an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.
Apple has apparently experimented with unifying macOS and iOS apps, however. This unification for developers would be a forerunner to any move to ARM-based chips for macOS. Some rumours suggest this could be announced at WWDC 2018 and debut in the subsequent release of iOS 12 and macOS 10.14.
Not everybody thinks we'll see a new MacBook debit soon, with some predicting the second half of this year. That's according to DigiTimes, which is well-known for leaking Apple-related news and having deep industry sources, though it also has a so-so track record.
DigiTimes' sources said a company named General Interface Solution "is expected to land more LCM (LCD module orders) for the new computer."
The new 13-inch MacBook will probably have an LCD display, whereas Apple may at some point upgrade its Pro line with OLED displays. DigiTimes' senior researcher, Jim Hsiao says that Apple initially looked at using displays from a China-based supplier to reduce costs, but has instead turned to LG Display to produce the 2,560 x 1,600 panels.
The current MacBook has the same resolution and if it transpires that this new laptop takes the Air moniker, it will be the first MacBook Air with a Retina display.
Quanta Computer is said to take on around 70 percent of production duties, while Foxconn will handle the remaining 30 percent.
It's claimed Apple expects to ship around six million units of the new MacBook before the year is out, however Hsiao expects the technology giant to sell closer to four million, largely because the price, while affordable for Apple products, will still be out of the reach of many consumers.
Why not also read: Apple's forgotten tech: The Apple gear you won't remember