Coming soon…

I don’t have to most successfully history of predicting what Apple might do next – but then, who does?

There’s an interesting discussion on MacRumors about newly-leaked photos (allegedly) showing more details of the machines which will be announced this Tuesday.

There is ongoing uncertainly over whether the cases photographed are of two different models of MacBook, or of a MacBook and a MacBook Pro.

At least one poster was convinced that they must both be MacBook models, as the ports (which appeared to omit any form of Firewire on the supposed MacBook, and had an unidentified but small display connector on either machine). As another user mentioned, this would tie in with Apple’s earlier patent for a iMac-like MacBook dock, and in fact the sketches included do have a connector in the same position as a mystery hole in the larger case. At the same time, the patent also seems to suggest having outwards-facing ports, which neither chassis does (… although, if the dock is passive rather than active, you’d want internally-facing ports, so this could simply be a mistake). When it comes down to it, though, the idea of an iMac dock with a screen seems to be old-fashioned thinking: Apple, as a hardware manufacturer, wants to sell more equipment for the highest prices the market will sustain. Surely, rather than selling cheaper docks-with-screens, they’d rather the public buy full iMacs, and then share data between their laptops and desktops… perhaps using Apple’s service? I doubt that an iMac-like dock, whilst interesting, would sell either more laptops or more iMacs, so I’d guess it’s a device they’ve patented simply to prevent other companies from doing anything similar – something which Asus or the other netbook manufacturers would probably be interested in, as their machines really could do with bigger screens and greater connectivity when at a desk.

There is still uncertainty about the glass iPhone-like trackpads which were rumoured. I have to say that I love this concept… but I can’t help feeling that now is not the time. These new models should bring the first real redesign of the PowerBook/MacBook Pro since 2001, and that alone will ensure that they sell. As Apple doesn’t seem to have any rival breathing down its neck in the professional notebook market, I can’t see that this is a compelling feature to add now. That said, I think it would be something so radical compared to other high-end notebooks, and so advanced compared to the technology that any other manufacturer has access to, that it could well be Apple’s attempt to innovate its way out of the current credit slump: Apple probably has such economies of scale from the iPhone that they could do this very reasonably, and rake in the sales from the astonished public. In a world where high-end laptops are much of a muchness and Sony still rule, perhaps the prize is there for anyone able to think different?

So, back to hopes are fears – of my previous predictions only Multitouch came to pass, and is already present in the latest refresh of the MacBook Pro. However, a lot of what I mentioned is still rumoured for these new machines:

Blu-ray is being bandied about, although I would imagine that if mentioned at all it would only be a build-time optional upgrade: I can’t see the Blu-ray market really going anywhere, and online distribution (via a new Apple TV?) is the way of the future, whether the media companies are yet ready to admit it or not.

An updated MacBook-style keyboard is now a certainty, and I still bear the faintest flicker of hope that Apple will finally produce a usable UK layout… although I’m not holding my breath.

The rumours and leaked images of the chassis do suggest that Apple has decided to give the internals of the Pro machines the accessibility of the consumer models – and about time too (although, due to the massive redesign this would have required for the current models, it’s no surprise that this hasn’t happened until now.)

Magnetic catches look like a dead-cert too – finally. Unlike component accessibility, I see no reason why Apple couldn’t have made this change long ago, certainly with the introduction of Multitouch trackpads.

I hoped that Apple would introduce an ExpressCard/Bluetooth Apple Remote, but since they’re no longer even supplying the remotes with the latest machines, I can’t see this happening. With the Apple Remote application controlling iTunes from an iPhone via WiFi, though, this concepts time is probably past. It would be nice to have iPhone control o Front Row, though. The question is, will the new machines even have an infra-red “eye” port for the remote to use? Current leaked case designs suggest not, unless the sensor is now in the lid…

Finally, I hoped that Apple would return to ATI graphics – and the recent admission that faulty nVidia hardware is causing MacBook Pro failures seems to support this view. However, it has long been rumoured that the new MacBooks (at least) would use a fully-integrated chipset form ATI or nVidia, and recently there have been rumours of nVidia employees having new MacBook engineering samples. I just hope that the MacBook Pros aren’t also all-nVidia affairs.

Aside from these, all I can add is that I implore Apple to retain the Matte screen option on MacBook Pros, and hope that they get some useful form of video output (HDMI would be nice, DisplayPort acceptable) which doesn’t require an additional dongle. Perhaps this is what the additional port on the photos of the larger chassis is for?

Oh, and I’m not sure I’m keen on the new, smaller power button hidden away at the top-right of the chassis… although if this is the only feature I’m left bemused by, then Apple really will have done well 🙂