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Predicting 2010: Mac Lineup

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January 2010 will mark the four-year anniversary of Apple’s (s aapl) first Intel-based (s intc) Mac, the MacBook Pro. With Snow Leopard officially dropping support for PowerPC Macs and the next version of iLife and iWork likely to do the same, a perfect storm is brewing where Apple can begin to really push OS X to maximize the potential of the Intel hardware it supports. 2010 looks to be a big year in terms of hardware updates from Apple; here’s our roundup of predictions on what’s to come.

MacBook Pro

Just like where it started four years ago with the first Intel Mac, the biggest and most exciting updates will happen to the MacBook Pro. The good news? With the classic MacBook seeing updates recently that peg its specs a little too close for comfort with its older brother, the new MacBook Pro update should arrive sooner rather than later.

In terms of processors, I predict Apple will adopt the mobile variant of the Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors currently found in the latest iMacs. Though these mobile variants, also referred to by their codename Arrandale, only feature two cores, they also come laden with Intel’s better-than-previously-integrated-but-not-quite-as-good-as-a-standalone graphics chipset. Rumor has it that Apple isn’t a fan of this implementation (as right it shouldn’t be, desiring a dedicated professional graphics card for its high-end portable). How this will shake out is still a mystery.

For the past three years, Apple has followed a steady trend of doubling both the entry-level amount of RAM and the maximum RAM that its high end portables can support. It’s a great tactic on Apple’s part as it combats only incremental performance gains with every new processor release. 2010 should be no different, with standard models of MacBook Pros shipping with 8GB of RAM with a ceiling of 16GB.

The big news for the MacBook Pros will be the inclusion of the first Blu-ray drive. It’s been a long time coming but Apple is ready to go for it and ready to do it right. Blu-ray Superdrives will be available as an option (if not standard) on the 15” and 17” MacBook Pros.

Taking advantage of the brilliant resolution of Blu-ray, the 15” MacBook Pro will also feature a gorgeous 1920 x 1080 resolution display, packing the same number of pixels as the new 21.5-inch iMac and the current 17” MacBook Pro. Of course, this also means the 17” will get a display bump as well. 2560 x 1440 seems like a bit of a stretch, but one can always hope, right?

In regards to storage, I predict we’ll see MacBook Pros starting with 500GB hard drives on the low-end 13” model and maxing out at 1TB or 1.5TB hard drives on the high-end 17” model. Before the year is out, the high-end models might even have an option for a 2TB drive.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air, due to it’s ultra slim and lightweight profile, will only see modest updates in 2010. Processors will be bumped to 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz (up from 1.86GHz and 2.13GHz). Hard drives on the portable will see modest size increases to 250GB SATA and 256GB solid-state drives. The next iteration of the MacBook Air will also ship with 4GB of RAM standard. Though it will be difficult for Apple to upgrade the processors, hard drives and RAM while still maintaining a profit, the price point of the MacBook Air is in a sweet spot at the moment that Apple doesn’t want to disrupt.

As a completely outlandish prediction, I predict that Apple will also release a standalone external USB Blu-ray drive for MacBook Air users and legacy users who wouldn’t mind the accessory. Price point? I’m betting $299.


Everyone’s favorite little portable recently saw an overhaul just a few months ago. For 2010, the MacBook specs will tend towards the current MacBook Pro offerings. Standard RAM will increase to 4GB (though this may remain the max for this model) and the portable will ship with either a 320GB or 500GB hard drive as standard.

Mac mini

The Mac mini will likely see modest processor increases (2.53GHz on the entry-level and 2.6GHz on the high-end) as well as 4GB RAM and 320GB hard drives standard. Build to order options will include 1TB drives and the Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server will ship with two 1TB drives. I also predict that Blu-ray drives will be a build-to-order option as Apple is starting to recognize the importance of the Mac mini in the living room as a more robust alternative to the Apple TV.


The iMac saw a nice update in 2009 that shifted the aspect ratio of the displays from the Apple-familiar 16:10 to the more HD-familiar 16:9. As such, the entry-level iMac is capable of displaying 1080p video, if only there were a source to play it. Similar to the MacBook Pros, I also predict the iMacs will receive built-in Blu-ray drives on the high-end models, if not standard across the entire line. The iMacs will also see a shift towards the quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 chips reaching clockspeeds similar to the current Core 2 Duo iMacs (a little over 3GHz). A subsequent update later in the year could bring about even faster processors in the neighborhood of 3.2GHz to 3.5GHz. 8GB of RAM will become standard on these Macs with the ability to upgrade to 16GB if desired.

Mac Pro & Xserve

There is still life left in the Nehalem architecture as the Core i9 “Gulftown” processor will make its debut in these high-end Macs at some point next year. Manufactured on a highly efficient 32nm die, this six core processor will boost a clock speed of around 2.8GHz and outfit the Mac in both single and dual processor varieties. This essential “12-core” MacPro or Xserve will feature 8-10GB of RAM as standard and a maximum ceiling of 64GB of RAM. You don’t have to take my word for it though, just start saving pennies now.

The Elusive iTablet

And saving the best for last, we arrive at the iTablet. While many constantly peg Apple’s unreleased tablet as occupying the space between the iPod touch and the MacBook, I predict it is between the iPod touch and MacBook of 2010, not 2009. As such, I predict the iTablet to function like a Mac and run OS X. I predict the tablet to utilize an Intel Core 2 Duo processor around the 2GHz mark. Personally, I feel Apple will disappoint many if the device functions more like an iPhone (in terms of hardware specs, besting out the 3GS 600MHz processor with 256MB of RAM). While I wouldn’t expect the tablet to function as a workstation for heavy video rendering, Apple has shown a history of utilizing hardware that can pack a punch and really maximize the OS. I predict the tablet will feature between a 7” and 10” screen (personally I’m leaning towards the latter, despite rumor sites). The iTablet will also feature support for 802.11n for fast streaming of content like iTunes Extras across your local network, support for Screen Sharing for remotely administering other Macs and the ability to connect to an external display through a micro-DisplayPort connector. I also feel the iTablet will ship in two versions, differentiated by storage size (like every other Apple product ever) and feature a solid state drive like the iPhone and iPod touch. Though the iTablet may not feature a screen with high enough resolution for HD, I do believe it will support playback of HD video through an appropriate video out connector.

What’s Left?

Rumors of Intel and Apple co-developing LightPeak technology are becoming more commonplace and I predict we’ll see some announcement related to this in 2010. This high-speed optical connection might be essential to products like the iTablet that would benefit from its singular connection for power, data transfer, and HD video output. Or perhaps the technology could become employed in MacBook Pros, allowing use of one LightPeak connection to an iMac that provides power to charge the laptop, video signal carried to the iMac’s display and audio carried to the iMac’s internal speakers.

The white elephant still remaining in the room is of course Apple’s Display lineup. With a 24” LED display and a 30” display that barely beats the resolution of Apple’s new 27” iMac, I predict Apple will definitely be refreshing its display lineup. In particular, I expect the price of the 24” LED Cinema Display to drop to $699 and a new 27” LED Cinema Display, matching the same resolution as the iMac (remember, it’s 16:9, not 16:10) to arrive at $1299. I also predict Apple will introduce a new, high-end 32” LED display at $1799, the price point of the current 30” display.

All of these predictions are merely speculation, based on Apple’s history, rumor sites and published roadmaps from companies that Apple sources components from. While this article solely represents my opinion of what could be around the corner in 2010, I’d love to hear what you think or would like to see. Share a comment or two with your thoughts!

77 Responses to “Predicting 2010: Mac Lineup”

  1. I was just about to buy a mbp for editing (after weeks of debating with it and the mac pro; portability won) but decided to check when it will update. I was caught last time buying the very last imac g5 powerpc right before they switched to intel because I didn’t research. Well this time I’m going to wait let’s hope it’s soon!

    At least I know where my tax refund will go.

  2. Visionzbg

    Still waitting…this is becoming a true test of patience and fortitude! The good thing is: the more I am forced to wait = the more $$$ I’m able to stack = the better MBP I will be able to afford. Now, let’s just hope that I don’t blow it on this new 1.2 / 50mm Canon lens that I’ve had my eye on:)

  3. I have read your article with great interest ,but cannot help feeling that apple in most cases have let the loyal apple mac users from the days of ppc upto the intel users,im talking staunch mac supporters down ?? my reasons for saying this, is that whilst we the loyal mac users without question payed and still willing to pay a hefty price for a top end macbook pro or imac or mac pro ,apple is happy in taking our money but when it comes to big video editing houses and design houses screaming for upto date technology apple digs its heels? why? well lets see apple makes money on downloads ie itunes and now it will be itablet apps store , so they will not be interested in putting a blu ray player /burner in a macbook or mac pro or an imac,yet apples forgetting that they were the first to have superdrive ie DL and everyone was happily paying for that optional extra, so i dont think its in apples interest to be loyal to long time running apple mac users , they want to sell there macs to new users ie switchers? now untill the switchers and new users realise that what they are paying for is really a well built pc without the trimmings and flashy blue lights and hdmi ports they will see a slump in the mac market except for iphone which will have to work hard as sony and microsoft are not sleeping neither is samsung or nokia?? so i say come on Apple dont tell us what we need sell us what we want???

  4. I really hope SSD will become a standard. Not everyone needs 500G of space, that eats the battery to produce more heat. If anyone wants it, it should be an option, same for larger than 500G HDDs.

  5. Casper B. Hansen

    Hmm, i find your Macbook Pro predictions hilarious.

    I’m going to get myself a Macbook Pro 17″, as soon as the update is available. With this in mind, reading your post here was chilling. The specs you are presenting aren’t all that good, quite frankly, they are very poor.

    This is what i think will happen:
    – No HDD options; Macbook Pro’s will be all SSD with lower price tags and hopefully better than those offered at this time.
    – i5 processors to the 13″ and 15″, i7 in the 17″.
    – Substitution of the current graphics cards, with some better ones. No big deal, unless they get to use and implement the Nvidia Optimus technology.
    – 4GB RAM standard, 8GB option … but i don’t think you’ll see those 16GB RAM :)

  6. Hope Your right on the displays Apple does need to revamp the display line for desktops, Apple lineup is very limited you have 24″inch LED which not everyone can use with their Mac’s unless users buy a new GPU that’s supports mini display-port or buy special adapters which should be included in the first place with the display, Then theirs the 30 inch cinema display and at the price of $1799 I just might as well buy the i7 iMac and use it a computer and a secondary display and not everyone can afford a 30 inch so the Apple’s display line-up is very limited that’s why many users will flock over to Dell, Hp etc… because companies like Dell makes a wide variety of desktops displays

    21-22 inch LED as a entry level cinema display

    24 inch LED as a mid-level Cinema display

    27-32 inch LED as a high-end Level Cinema display

    Apple has a 27-inch LED 2560×1440 price under $2000 so price for a new LED 30 or 32 inch should not be an issue, How hard is it for apple to developed a 2560×1600 30 inch LED if Apple got the iMac 27 inch LED with almost the same resolution for under $2,000, it doesn’t make any sense why Apple have it that way, I wish there’s a way we can write to Steve Jobs to express our opinion on Apple displays they don’t even have a feedback on Apple displays which is weird. i’ve been saving up for 2 years for a 30 inch and know that I have the money for a 30 inch i’m scared to buy the current 30 inch Cinema display because Apple might just update the Cinema display but who knows what Apple is going to do, there man focus these days are on the iPad, iPhone and the app store. Apple must have a team that just works on displays, Some one should do a poll and send the info back to Apple maybe that will help? I need your guys opinion in light of this rumour would you go ahead and purchase the current 30 inch cinema or wait for the new LED Displays? I really want your opinion on this i’m going on 2 years with a 17 inch (Tan) display on a $6,000 Mac Pro in whic i’m getting laugh at by my friends but I would like to blow them away with a LED 32-inch that would be awesome. Apple I got my money ready just hurry up release the damn thing already.

  7. ok ok now I know :)
    Apple must be waiting for the Nvidia Fermi gpu due to be released in march in order to include it in the higher end mbp – that would be so sweet! Since apple and nvidia are in a friendly relationship and Nvidia has already released exclusive super new gpu with the mpb (9400 & 9600) a while back why not again!?
    oh man I’m so excited…but so I tip on march for the mbp release :(

  8. ok, I have to make a revision I actually now think that the upgraded mbp will come with the optimus technology from nvidia. macrumors mentions it and it totally makes sense – automatic switching between integrated (intel i5, i7) and dedicated nvidia graphics without having to log out etc. would be a cool improvement! which nvidia cards they’ll use I have no clue there are so many freakin numbers on all of them (3xxm). this sadly does push the release date towards the end of february begining of march and with the cebit around the corner and all…
    yea and usb 3.0 will be included too :)…
    anyhow now to steve – just release them already, please….pleeeeeaase!!!! I’m dying here…..

  9. Yeah seriously, im getting tired of waiting! i want to purchase a macbookpro but just seems stupid if something new is coming out soon…. does anyone know anything about whats coming out and when?!

  10. I’m with RA K.M
    I almost caved and bought a MBP yesturday, but then started to do some internet research and discovered all these ruymors about updates and such, but with no specific time frame.

    Can anyone give an accurate time frame?

  11. Robert McEwen

    Suggestion for Apple….
    get rid of the consumer oriented slow SD card slot, and bring back the Expresscard slot in the 15″ MBPs.
    Sorry but transferring huge files from a professional DSLR or an HD video camera or recording 12 simulaneous audio trackss just doesn;t work on USB or even firewire for that matter. there is a reason that top end audio interfaces like ‘symphony’ use the expresscard slot.

    Those of us who use these thing professionally, can’t haul a 17″ on an aircraft easily… so no… pro’s don’t use 17″ models….. we use a 15″ for road use and Mac Pro towers for in house work.

    • What about HDMI port? Without BD It would be nice to be able to get my HD movies (and sound!) to my HDTV with a simple cable.

      Also – do you folks think prices will come down? Wintel world is selling 15 inch i5’s 4Gb ram, geoforce graphics, 500Gb drives and HDMI for $1,000.

  12. comment on upcoming macbook pros:
    -arrandale i5/i7 mobile versions with dual core for macbook pro 15″/17″
    -there will be a price drop on optional ssd drives
    -ram will pretty much stay the same as the icores require a new type of ram an bumping it up to 8gb for standard versions is highly unlikely!!!
    -blue ray – just not going to happen this time around but maybe in the next upgrade (summer/autumn)
    -graphics wise apple will still opt for an additional discrete version (ontop of the onboard intel graphics) this time probably chosing the mobile radeon series 5000 from ATI (hopefully nothing lower!!!) due to the incompatibility issues of nvidia with intel…
    -screen resolution may be upgraded especially for the 15″ version but expect no major changes.
    -possibly some changes to the available ports (usb 3.0 unlikely but who knows?!)…

    in my opinion that pretty much sums it up and I definitely hope to see at least the processor and graphics upgrade!!!! fingers crossed for a release in feb 2010 :)!!!!!!

  13. JonnyDub

    Typically, Apple holds events in January for new products (iPhone, Macbook Air, iPad), in March for iPhone stuff, June (for Macbook Pro updates/iPhone releases), September (iPods), and October/November for various updates (most recently, the iMac). Going by this pattern, it looks like we won’t see a Macbook update until June :( . I was really hoping the event last week would focus on more than just the iPad, like what Chris predicted above.
    And you’re right, all that storage, memory, and blu-ray is kind of unlikely but would be fantastic.

  14. The Mac Conference has been held and no updates were announced, when and will this happen within a short time limit? It would be awesome if MBP 13″ got 500 GB, 8 ram and Blue ray even I have doubt concerning such an increase in GB and ram.