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Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 07:05 am PT (10:05 am ET)

Rumor: Apple to launch 15-inch MacBook Air in April, 'effectively killing the Pro'

Rumors of a larger 15-inch MacBook Air continue to surface, with the latest claim suggesting Apple is gearing up to launch a larger ultraportable notebook in April.

A Mac accessory maker who spoke with Electricpig at the CU Exposed show this week indicated that Apple is "likely" to launch its 15-inch MacBook Air in April. The anonymous source said the thin-and-light notebook would be similar to current MacBook Air models, with ports on both sides and no optical drive or Ethernet port.

The vendor reportedly speculated that the new 15-inch MacBook Air would "effectively (kill) the (MacBook) Pro for the average consumer." They suggested that the new MacBook Air could even replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro, leaving the "Pro" moniker only to Apple's high-end 17-inch model.

AppleInsider reported in February that Apple is gearing up to introduce radically redesigned MacBook Pro models this year, borrowing the super-thin design the company has pioneered with its MacBook Air. One person familiar with the new MacBook Pro designs said "they're all going to look like MacBook Airs."

Wednesday's report lines up with what AppleInsider relayed in February: The higher-volume 15-inch notebook would be the first to see a revamp, and a 17-inch model is expected to be introduced shortly thereafter. Apple used the same approach in late 2008 and early 2009, when the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro redesigns were spaced about three months apart.

Whether Apple's new 15-inch ultra-thin notebook is known as a "Pro" or an Air," the model has been rumored since last year. While it will lack an optical drive, as Apple continues its push for digital distribution of software through the Mac App Store, the new notebooks will be powered by Intel's next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are scheduled to go on sale in the coming months.

MacBook Lineup

An illustration of Apple's notebook lineup planned for the 2012 calendar year.


Wednesday's claim of a 15-inch MacBook Air launch next month comes on the heels of a separate rumor that claimed Apple was forced to drop Nvidia's next-generation "Kepler" graphics processors from its next low- and mid-range MacBook upgrades, leaving the systems to rely on Intel's integrated graphics solutions. Currently, Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro models use Intel HD Graphics 3000, but the company's higher-end 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros feature dedicated graphics processors from AMD.

A thinner and lighter 15-inch MacBook Pro without a dedicated graphics card could be difficult to differentiate from a 15-inch MacBook Air, which is why the anonymous accessory maker sees Apple "effectively killing the Pro" model. In anticipation of an upcoming MacBook refresh, their company's manufacturers are reportedly prepared to build and ship a new product in less than 90 days.