Summary:

Over the weekend, we saw a slew of new rumors surrounding the new MacBook Air hit the web. The new reports suggest we might see more than one design for the ultraportable. We might also see the introduction of a new kind of notebook storage.

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Over the weekend, we saw a slew of new rumors surrounding the new MacBook Air hit the web. The new reports suggest we might see more than one form factor for the ultra-portable, as we predicted. We might also see the introduction of a new kind of notebook storage.

The original rumors of a new MacBook Air can be traced to Taiwanese newspaper DigiTimes. Citing sources in the supply chain, DigiTime predicted an 11.6-inch MacBook Air, featuring an ultra-low voltage processor from Intel’s Core i-series. The new MacBook Air would also have “an even slimmer and lighter design,” and use new technologies that will eventually proliferate across Apple’s portable lineup.

Some of those new technologies could include “amorphous, non-crystalline, metal alloy” from LiquidMetal Technologies, whose IP Apple recently acquired. That would mean a MacBook Air enclosure that is both lighter and stronger than the current aluminum unibody model. In a contradictory report, AppleInsider refers to “chatter” suggesting the new MacBook Air enclosure will instead be using carbon fiber and weigh as little as 2.7 pounds.

AppleInsider is also reporting with confidence that the new MacBook Air will have neither a conventional mechanical drive, nor a solid-state drive. Instead, it will use an “SSD Card,” which “more closely resembles a stick of RAM,” but may not be accessible to the user. As the MacBook Air currently has its RAM soldered to the system board, this wouldn’t be a surprising development.

A display size of 11.6 inches is being reported by many outlets, including CNET. The site reports that the new MacBook Air will continue to use “older” Core processors from Intel, along with NVIDIA’s MCP89 chipset, like the current model. What’s not the same is the price, which will be “significantly lower” than $1,499, the starting price of the current MacBook Air.

Seeming to contradict everyone else, there’s the image of an alleged MacBook Air prototype from Engadget showing a 13.3-inch enclosure. It appears to have USB ports on both sides, a Mini DisplayPort, an SD card slot, and power connection. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of drive enclosure on the system board, but instead a curious stick of RAM near the top left.

All these rumors are impossible to reconcile in just one new MacBook Air, but maybe not if Apple ships two distinct models. AppleInsider reports this will be the case, with the 11.6-inch model “a more aggressively priced option.” Further refinements will include a button-less trackpad, and the elimination of the port door housing the USB and Mini DisplayPort. Both models will continue to be extremely thin.

Internally, the larger model is expected to continue to use the Core 2 Duo and NVIDIA chipset. If so, it’s likely the more aggressively priced model will do the same, which would be unfortunate. With Intel’s new microprocessor architecture just two months away, the new MacBook Air will be two generations behind the rest of the world and suffer in performance and battery life because of it.

One MacBook Air or two: find out the truth with TheAppleBlog on Wednesday, starting at 10:00 a.m. PST.

UPDATED:

Cult of Mac now cites “independent confirmation” of two traditional 13.3-inch MacBook Air models, and a new 11.6-inch model. The 13.3-inch form factor will not be as “curvy,” as the current Macbook Air, but “boxier, like the iPhone 4 design.” Although the new MacBook Air will still have an aluminum unibody enclosure, it will weigh less than the current model’s three pounds.

The case will feature two USB ports, one on each side, an SD card slot, a MiniDisplay port, and a new MagSafe port. A larger battery will provide eight to ten hours of power. An “amazing” boot time suggests some sort of solid state storage. There will be two models, running at 2.1 GHz and 2.4 GHz with 2GB and 4GB RAM. Pricing will be as low as $1300. These 13.3-inch models would be in addition to a 11.6-inch model, which allegedly will start at $999.

It’s hard to believe Apple is about to “blow up” its pricing model, but in just two days we’ll know.

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