Apple Event Predictions: The Next Macs

So the cat’s out of the bag, as they say. Apple’s (s aapl) having a press event next week on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and there will definitely be a new version of OS X unveiled at that time. But that’s probably not all we’ll see. You can expect new Macs, too, just in time for the holidays.

But what can we expect from those new computers? Let’s take a look at what updates we’re most likely to see at the “Back to the Mac” event.

MacBook Air

Ah, the MacBook Air. Does anyone remember how amazing it was when Steve Jobs first took this thing out of one of those yellow envelopes with the string fastener? I wanted one very badly. Luckily, reason won out and I didn’t get one, opting instead for a MacBook Pro later. I say luckily, because the Air is very expensive for what it offers, and because it seems to have been plagued by problems.

A new Air should, at the very minimum, get updated to current components, including an Intel (s intc) i-series chip, like an i3 or i5. It’ll probably get a case redesign, too, if for no other reason than to make room for a bigger battery and the new-style push-button glass trackpads that are found in all other models of MacBook and MacBook Pro.

Rumors suggest there’ll also be a brand new 11.6-inch display to go along with beefier internals and other cosmetic changes. Since the MacBook Air, in a lot of ways, is as much of a hobby for Apple as the Apple TV, I do foresee them playing around with the form factor. It’s a risk they can afford to take, since it can’t really hurt sales of the ultra-portable. Even if they’re concerned about that, they could keep both a 13-inch and 11.6-inch model on offer.


This time last year, the entry-level MacBook got a unibody design. But it wasn’t an aluminum one, like its Pro cousins. Instead it got a polycarbonate unibody shell, in classic Mac white. In May of 2010, it got a spec bump that included Mini DisplayPort A/V output.

My money’s on a new look for the MacBook. This is the last machine among all of Apple’s offerings that still boasts the white plastic look (Apple TV recently did get a black plastic makeover, though). I think by now, Apple’s process has been around long enough and it’s done enough volume with suppliers that we’ll see it finally get an aluminum shell. Don’t expect the same lines as the Pro, though. There still has to be some way for consumers to tell the machines apart at a glance.

We’ll also see internals get a boost, with maybe a chip upgrade to the Core i3 from Intel. An SD card reader slot is also a good bet for Apple’s standby notebook.

MacBook Pro

A cosmetic update every two years is apparently just about the norm for the MacBook Pro. The unibody aluminum and glass look borrowed at least in part from its iMac predecessor has been around for just about that long now. Case updates aren’t that far-fetched an expectation, and a new look across the line would definitely go a long way toward saying “We haven’t forgotten about Mac.”

We’ll probably also see the i3 make its way into the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That’ll help capitalize on the integrated batteries, boosting life further still. We could see the introduction of HDMI, since Apple’s finally relented and put that into its Mac mini desktop, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one. Better graphics are probable, too.

In short, Apple wants this event to remind people that despite the success of iOS, it hasn’t forgotten about the other side of its business. I’m willing to bet that Jobs is going to go out of his way to make a splash with new hardware next week, and show us a difference we can see. That, combined with a new version of OS X, is bound to convince the doubters.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):