2012 MacBook Pros to Get All New Case Design?

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Apple gives us plenty to complain about, but one thing I wouldn’t is the graceful design of my 13-inch mid-2010 MacBook Pro. It aces both form and function, a rare (well, not so rare if you’re Apple) technology coup. A year on, it’s still ultra-quick, reasonably light and portable, and a joy to work on (it better be when you’re spending 12 hours a day parked in front of it).

What to make, then, of rumors Apple’s planning to upend the MacBook Pro’s current design–a clean-lined, broadly popular look it’s stuck with for years?

MacRumors reports that an unnamed source is telling it iLounge’s February 2011 report got it right, and that a 2012 redesign cometh. In February, iLounge wrote:

The February 2011 MacBook Pro is an incremental update to the prior aluminum unibody versions we’ve all seen before. Next year is the year when Apple will introduce an all new design for the MacBook Pro product family, which is already under development at Quanta in Taiwan. It’s being described as a big, “milestone” release for the Pro family, as compared with the speed bump features that will be introduced in tomorrow’s models.

No one knows what “all new design” means, but we can always speculate.

For starters, the industry’s been toying with eliminating optical drives (CDs, DVDs) in laptops for years. It doesn’t make sense to backfill with Blu-ray–the drives are still relatively pricey, as is the recordable media, and besides, who wants to watch a 1920 x 1080 (1080p) movie on an 11-, 13- or even 15-inch screen? No, it makes more sense to pull the disc drive entirely and subtract a substantial space sink.

Now imagine a 1.8-inch solid state drive in lieu of the current 2.5-inch spindle-based 5400RPM hard drives and presto, more free space still. All of which means what? That the new MacBook Pro is the MacBook Air?

It’s possible, and why not? Though to be fair, there’s still appetite for 15- and 17-inch portables, say you want a totable workstation without worrying about finding a monitor to plug into, and if you go too thin, you’re asking for trouble when someone invariably bends or warps their 15/17-inch way-too-thin-top.

Perhaps they’ll merge the MacBook Air and Pro lines design-wise and simply step the aluminum unibody frame up as necessary for larger screens. The two families are more alike than not already. Shrink the Pro’s underbody, and who knows–maybe do away with one or two of the ports (is it time yet to wave goodbye to Ethernet?)–and you’re in spitting distance of design parameters that accommodate the elegant, blade-like tapering of the latest batch of MacBook Airs.

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