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Apple's next-gen MacBook Pro casing design revealed

Photos that reveal the industrial design of Apple Inc.'s next-generation MacBook Pro notebooks have been making the rounds on the Internet since late last week, AppleInsider has learned.

People familiar with the ongoing development of the new 15- and 17-inch professional notebooks are now confirming that an image of an unfamiliar and deconstructed Apple notebook enclsoure published by a Chinese blog on Saturday is in fact that of an authentic next-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro shell.

Although the enclosure shown in the photo appears to be a slightly dated prototype that has somehow found its way into the wild, casings currently sitting in Apple's labs are said to be nearly identical, as the overall design has not changed.

The photos show a trademark aluminum Apple notebook enclosure that appears slightly thinner than the one employed by the current MacBook Pro. The edges of the casing are also more tapered, somewhat akin to the design of the company's relatively new 13-inch MacBook Air.

Also visible from the photo is a small rectangular recess on the bottom casing, about three quarters of the way up on the right hand side. People familiar with the design say this recess will be fitted with a latch in the shipping product that will release the notebook's long and narrow battery cover.

The cover spans the entire length of the notebook and comprises approximately 25 percent of the bottom casing, bleeding out and over one edge. Once removed, it will not only provide access to the MacBook Pro's battery but also its hard disk drive, those same people say. The change appears to reflect a similar move for the 13-inch MacBook in 2006.

Next-gen MacBook Pro

It's unclear whether Apple's decision to make the hard drive more readily accessible will ultimately allow users to perform their own upgrades without voiding warranties. Similarly, it's unclear if the move will make it trivial for users to pop out their traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and replace them with solid state drives (SSDs) as flash media storage becomes more affordable.

The photo of the new MacBook Pro's top shell is not particularly revealing, and also largely mirrors that of the MacBook Air. The recessed Apple logo contains three holes that are further recessed to the depth of the Apple logo's leaf. In the shipping product, it's speculated these holes (and the leaf) will be hollowed out so that light from the notebook's LED-backlit display can shine through and illuminate the same kind of a semi-transparent white Apple logo seen on today's models.

Back in April, AppleInsider was first to report that Apple's existing MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks would be the last of their breed, as both product families were destined for major design changes that would see their appearance mirror that of the August 2007 aluminum iMacs and January 2008 MacBook Air.

Among those reported changes were instances of matte black on portions of the casings (keyboards), the adoption of oversized trackpads, and a move away from plastic enclosures on the MacBook and towards ones constructed from more eco-friendly materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel.

Apple Notebook Design Revision History

The report also mentioned that while the footprints of the notebooks would remain largely unchanged, Apple had conducted "some trimming around the edges, similar to — but nowhere near the same magnitude — as what was accomplished with the MacBook Air, and to a lesser extent, the rear of the aluminum iMacs."

These changes aside, rumor has it there may be some additional surprises in store when Apple gets around to refreshing its MacBook lines in the coming months. AppleInsider is working to sort out those details and hopes to have some additional information on the matter once the iPhone 3G frenzy settles down.