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A few days ago we posted a story about the much-sensationalized upcoming Apple mystery product, “The Brick.” While there is still no definite word regarding what it actually is, 9to5mac is now reporting that a “reliable” source has lead them to believe that “The Brick” is not a product at all, but rather a production process and the facility to house it.
The blog cites Steve Jobs’ experience with in-house manufacturing during his days helming NeXT computers, and their earlier accuracy in predicting the arrival of a number of Apple products prior to launch (aluminum iMacs, MacBook Air, etc.) to back up their claims.
The process they describe involves using lasers and water jets to carve MacBook casings from a single, continuous block of aluminum, thereby reducing or eliminating structural weak spots arising from the need for bends or screw holes in the metal. Essentially, the apparatus sounds like a computer-mapped, high-precision, high-tech wet tile saw.
This rumor has a number of things going for it. For one, it’s in keeping with Apple design principles (i.e. as few breaks in product shells as possible). Second, after the substantial initial investment required to build the facility, production costs would actually be much lower in the long term, allowing Apple to move closer to a market-broadening lower price point. Third, as Computerworld points out, being able to build and operate production facilities in the U.S. would potentially future-proof Jobs’ company in the event of a falling out between the U.S. and China. This would also have the added benefit of allowing Apple to offer a totally domestic product to an American consumer base that is on the verge of becoming much more economically insular.
The new “Brick” rumors are hot on the heals with TUAW‘s reports this weekend that Nvidia employees are being given early demos of MacBooks with graphics cards manufactured by the company. This is in keeping with earlier, less detailed claims along the same lines.
While an innovative production process and a graphics spec bump might not be as sensational as new, never-before-seen product types, the potential for future application is exciting. What do you think, laser carving more or less drool-worthy than say, a tablet Mac?