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Apple May Introduce a New Design Concept for the MacBook Air

1 - Cover - MacBook Air Hybrid Concept Report - AirBook brand idea - V2 
Taiwan's DigiTimes reported on July 15, 2010 that Apple is preparing their next generation MacBook Air to sport an 11.6 inch display and an Intel Core i-series processor. But the news didn't stop there. The statement that followed was a loaded statement that may point to the MacBook Air gaining a new design and concept. This report looks at two or more possible concepts that might make the cut this fall.


Dissecting the Statement


The DigiTimes statement is no longer available to the general public to view without a membership and so the next best thing is to simply show you the loaded statement in the form of a raw graphic as illustrated below. This way you could see for yourself that we're not embellishing in any way.

 2- the core of the statement from the DigiTimes Report July 15, 2010

The DigiTimes loaded statement presented below has been carefully parsed using color and emphasis so as to break the statement into its descriptive parts:


"…the 11.6 inch MacBook Air will feature an even slimmer and lighter design than the previous-generation models and the technologies used for the design and concept are expected to be broadly used in the company's other product lines to boost their competiveness."


It's obvious that senior analyst at Digitimes Research, Mingchi Kuo had learned something of great interest about the upcoming MacBook Air. It's equally obvious that he couldn't be more specific about his discoveries or else he would be putting his sources at risk with Apple. The balancing act of Mr. Kuo resulted in the creation of a well crafted loaded statement.


A loaded statement is one that is well crafted to fundamentally covey a major discovery without being specific. The first thing that you're to understand about this statement is that there's a "design and concept" associated with the new technologies. A "design and concept" is not something menial such as introducing USB. 3.0, Light Peak, faster RAM or adding a new video card. Noooo, a "design and concept" is rather a major development. In fact, when you add "concept" you're really spicing things up. You're conveying the message that what you know is coming isn't something that Apple has ever done before. A "concept" in this context is associated with an expectation that if it's successful in the marketplace – the "concept" will be "broadly used in Apple's other product lines to boost competitiveness." The latter segment of the statement could either mean that other competitors already have this design or concept and Apple needs it to be competitive or that Apple has something new that the competition doesn't have to make the MacBook Air a superior competitor.


We didn't see what Mr. Kou was privy to so we can't assume which of the two it is at this point in time. So we'll present you with two or more possibilities that could accomplish either or both agendas based on Apple's bag of tricks known as patents.


What are the Possibilities?


In our view, the "design and concept" aspect of the DigiTimes statement could very well be describing a concept that was first presented to us in a 2008 Apple patent. The design and concept was simple. Allow a notebook display-cover to slide into the keyboard thereby forming an iPad-like device.


Apple has the leading tablet on the market today and it's only been out a few short weeks! Imagine the impact that an all new hybrid MacBook Air and iPad would have on the market at this point in time. Apple has to use their marketing clout to extend the iPad concept to all price points in the market and that could include rolling out hybrid-notebooks to achieve that goal. The time is right and with iPad demand sky rocketing – now is the time to strike.


3 - Apple patent - Notebook that transforms into an iPad-like device figs 33a, b, c - v2 

The particular Apple patents containing these concept designs detail iOS scrolling gestures. The vast majority of the patent figures within these patents are displaying a would-be iPhone. Therefore it stands to reason that the inclusion of these concept designs within these patents concerning a convertible notebook are meant to be introduced at some point in time and now could be that opportunity.


When Apple introduced the iPhone, they quickly created a competitor to the iPhone called the iPod touch. It didn't cannibalize sales as some had feared. Then came the iPad which is another form of the iPhone and the trend is obvious. Continue to build out on a strength that you possess to bury and outsmart your competitors. There are a number of competitors (Link to an Intel PDF) coming out with this concept of a notebook tablet for Q4 and Apple should have a competing device in the form of the MacBook Air.


Although the concept could one day conceivably be stretched to fully run on an A4 type of chipset alone – I rather think that Apple would likely start with a hybrid chipset system of sorts. One that would serve the needs of business class users that want access to Microsoft's Office Suite while being able to quickly access their iOS Apps and/or iBooks for casual use. The MacBook Air in this scenario is both beauty and beast – muscle and brains.


The alternate possibilities for the next iteration of the MacBook Air rest with two novel yet interesting concepts. The first alternative would be integrating a presentation pico projector into the MacBook Air.


4 - macbook or MacBook Air - projector system 

The second alternative would involve integrating "presence detection" into the new MacBook Air. The new technology would remotely detect a person's presence without requiring physical input by the user to restart their notebook from sleep. The technology could be built right into the physical frame of various MacBook Air or set within iSight itself.


5 - Presence Detection for future MacBooks and or MacBook Air 

The Evolving MacBook Air


Apple's MacBook Air is a premium priced notebook that really doesn't serve a need any longer. It's nothing more than a novelty "Wow-factor" device but little else. Apple could very well be rethinking the MacBook Air's position in the marketplace and deciding to repurpose the MacBook Air as Apple's flagship notebook. New and successful technologies brought to the MacBook Air could eventually filter down to others in the MacBook family.


A MacBook Air Hybrid notebook meets the criteria of the statement made by DigiTimes and perhaps that statement was in fact a planted statement. For my take, I found the statement to be overly clever and perhaps one that Apple's PR machine might have dreamed up to get the report to go viral. A way to get free press for a coming product so as to build market moment and high expectations for a future special event.


Whatever the case, the fact is that a hybrid notebook in the form of the MacBook Air would be a way to reinvigorate the one time super star device and put it back unto center stage where it belongs. Except this time it would have a lot of clout and technology behind it to really move this into the market for Christmas sales. I mean, could such a unit get any sexier?


In fact Apple could consider on rebranding the sexy beast to something like the AirBook – playing off the fact it's a hybrid MacBook Air and an iBook device. For the fun of it, we snuck that into our cover graphic for you to see if you didn't already catch that.


The MacBook already has the built-in iSight camera and so Apple wouldn't really have to move its positioning being that FaceTime in landscape mode is cooler anyways. The fact that Apple will be implementing an Ultra Low-Voltage processor could pave the way for the A4 and the new iSeries chip to co-exist. Then again, how Apple will achieve this is beyond the scope of this report. Suffice to say that it is plausible being that Apple has this design patented.


At the end of the day, these are some of the coolest possibilities that we might see coming to the new MacBook Air this fall. Could there be an out-of-nowhere surprise? Of course. Could DigiTimes have simply overstated their claims? Yes, of course again. They're both possibilites - and yet the time is right for the hybrid to come to market to stave off competitors and expand the reach of Apple's revolutionary iPad. Then again, time will tell.


If you think that Apple has something else up their sleeve for the MacBook Air this fall, something less innovativte perhaps, then by all means share your ideas with us in our comment area below.



Hipstomp, over at Core77, set up a photoshop rendition of his very own dreamy "MacBook Air - iPad" delight that is fun to see. We're likely to never see it, but the idea sure makes you raise an eyebrow. 


Other General Multi-Touch and 3D Related Material: 1) our special report titled "The Next OS Revolution Countdown Begins" (2) our patent report titled "Welcome to the iMac Touch," and (3) also see our Tech:3D + archives. 





During grad school, I was able to convince my girlfriend to buy a Mac when her HP died after just 2 years. Six years later, she's still running her 12" Powerbook. It's still in great condition and does everything she needs but just can't handle online videos anymore. (She can't watch Glee on Hulu) It's time for an upgrade and I thought the Macbook Air would be the perfect machine for her-- an academic who brings it back and forth to the office everyday, who's major work load is reading and writing papers and memos, and someone who hasn't stuck a disc in her laptop in over a year. It's a beautiful elegant machine in every way-- but the price. We were planning on picking up a 13" MBP this weekend until I started hearing the spatterings of a MBA update. If Apple can price this in between the iPad and Macbook Pro lines, that would certainly hit a nice sweet spot between mobility, performance, and price.

Dick Applebaum

Hi Jack,

Interesting ideas.

I am going way out on a limb here, but I think that a slider display or a swivel display are both kludges and non-starters as Apple products-- can you imagine Steve demoing either of those?

What I can envision is this:

1) The traditional clamshell form
2) The 2 halves of the clamshell can open from 0-320º (closed -- to lying flat -- to easel)
3) The top half would contain a Multitouch display
4) The bottom half would contain either:
--- a traditional kb (option)
--- a mondo touchpad* keyboard (option)
--- a second Multitouch display (option)
--- nothing
5) The bottom half would be detachable/interchangeable with a standard connector(s)
6) A case, similar to Apple's iPad case could be used to shield the components and facilitate their use

So, you have something like:

-- an iPad+ and a kb in a clamshell

-- an iPad+ and a mondo touchpad* (kb) in a clamshell

-- 2 iPad+ in a clamshell

-- a naked iPad+ as a tablet.

* The mondo touchpad would be capable of multitouch and high-resolution, pressure-sensitive stylus input.

So, whether you are working at home, the office, or out and about-- you use the components configured to your current needs:

-- maybe a Multitouch display/kb for power WP, SS, etc.

-- maybe a Multitouch display with mondo touchpad for primarily drawing, graphics, drafting-- with light typing

-- maybe dual Multitouch displays for intensive Audio/Video/Image editing, presentation creation, presentation delivery.



MacBook Air sans keyboard. The keyboard and track pad will exist in the case and connect via bluetooth when the display is independent of the case. OS X 10.6.5 will incorporate all of cocoa touch framework for its new touch capabilities.

Users will be abel to personalize their cases and integrate keyboards, touch pads, etc.

So on it's own it will function like an iPad, in the case it will function like a notebook if you so choose.


I just see thinner, smaller, lighter and hopefully cheaper (like half price). That would be enough for me. Thowing in a 3G option this year and LTE next year and I'm happy.

Mike Farcane

I think that Apple could do this. The display would just detach and be an independant iPad variant. All of the he folding, twisting or whatever is unnecessary. It's really an iPad with a matching keyboard that just happens to attach to the iPad. It would act as a cover for the iPad while being a keyboard when you need it.


If you really look closely at the patent concept of the hybrid, the keyboard area is almost a nonexistant body or shell as if the entire brains of the notebook are hidden in the lid or cover like an iPad is today. That way the curvature of the iPad is able to hide above the keyboard snuggly when in tablet mode. The frame presents the illusion that the unit is symetric.

I could see this on a MacBook, but it's hard to think that Ive's could go thinner and pull off a hybrid in the mix. That would blow me away.


The only way that this would work is if the display was a swivel display versus using a tracking system. I'm also hoping to see built-in 3G.


It's worth noting that Digitimes is hit and miss. If they mean new concept to become slimmer and lighter - that could be a manufacturing tooling and design concept. Maybe shifting new ports in there could be part of it - though moving to LightPeak isn't as simple as it's made out to be.

Maybe they would go for induction charging? We'll see soon enough.


I think that you hit a nerve here. I hope that Apple execs are reading this because you're bang on. It's just the timing may be off by a year or more.

I think that it's all about going thinner and thinner starting with the MacBook Air and then to other MacBooks in 2011. Too bad though, because I'm eyeing the PC hybrid notebooks myself for Christmas. I need more space and a real keyboard to work properly.


Whoa would I love to see that happen! But I think that's a little too ahead of Apple's roadmap. Perhaps in a few years. I think the presence detection is a possibility. God knows that the MacBook needs to be given some advantage in the market because it's just too pricy today based on looks alone. HP and Dell have both met the "thin" notebook standard and more are on the way over the next 18 months. Apple needs something with some punch this fall or they may as well kill it off.


If this thing makes it into production as you describe it, yes, that might be a huge paradigm shift. Currently the MacBook Air is an overpriced fancy little notebook, nothing more nothing less.

If they manage to change it to something trend-setting, whatever the price tag, it would open new roadmaps for everything. It doesn't have to be a big seller. Just a trendsetter.


Interesting speculation but I think you're wrong on this one.

A "slider" MacBook Air would have to be thicker than the current MacBook Air and introduction of a convertible tablet/notebook would just confuse the product category and the consumer.

On "Pico projectors," the whole concept of projectors that powerful and that small is also a law-suit waiting to happen.

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