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New MacBook case leaks question FireWire's future

Clearer, more detailed leaks of Apple's next-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro cases have surfaced and reveal that Apple's once-preferred FireWire may be on the way out for its entry-level system.

Posted yet again on a Chinese site, the images match up exactly with earlier leaks and all but confirm the design aesthetic of Apple's next-generation portables.

On the MacBook Pro, this includes the new through-the-tray keyboard layout, a latch-free magnetic lid, and redesigned speaker grilles that help bring its design into line with the more modern MacBook and MacBook Air.

The new standard MacBook undergoes a less dramatic change but again makes its promised switch to aluminum.

Both new units, however, are now known to have had their number of ports reduced versus today's models. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is now believed to have lost full DVI and FireWire 400 as revealed by a source of AppleInsider's last month.

Instead, the high-end notebook now has a mini-DVI connector for video output and just one FireWire 800 connector — a partial regression back to the original 15-inch MacBook Pro, which had a solitary FireWire 400 port before it received FireWire 800 several months later. A covered-up section at the front-left corner has yet to be explained.

MacBook Pro casing.

MacBook Pro case leak - left side
MacBook Pro ports (L to R): ExpressCard/34, audio in/out, mini-DVI, two USB, FireWire 800, Ethernet.

MacBook Pro case leak - right side
Kensington lock slot and the side-mounted optical drive.

The standard MacBook, however, may prove more worrisome for some prospective owners. The metal design only shows Ethernet, two USB ports, mini-DVI and audio as its expansion; FireWire 400 isn't visible anywhere in the available photos.

Removing the port gives Apple its first consumer-level portable without FireWire since the earliest versions of the first-generation iBook and represents a step back for Apple from the connection standard it helped create. A cursory look at the casing suggests space is the reason, though the new MacBook doesn't appear significantly smaller than its current plastic equivalent.

Technological change does favor Apple's move. While FireWire was originally added and maintained on Apple's more inexpensive portables to simplify connecting digital video cameras and eventually earlier iPod generations, more modern camcorders (including HD models), iPods and iPhones now depend chiefly on USB for a direct-to-computer file transfer.

MacBook case leak - top
MacBook casing.

MacBook case leak - left side
MacBook ports (top to bottom): MagSafe, Ethernet, two USB, mini-DVI, audio in/out, Kensington slot.

MacBook case leak - right side
The optical drive by itself.

Still, the new casing — if reflective of what Apple introduces on Tuesday — may spur a negative reaction from both video and audio professionals looking to use the smaller MacBook as a more portable editing platform than the larger and more expensive 15-inch pro unit.