Apple MacBook Air and Pro Merger in the Offing?

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We’ve heard a lot of analyst and supply chain scuttlebutt over the past year about the MacBook Pro folding into the MacBook Air lineup, or the MacBook Air outright supplanting the entire MacBook spread.

Power-wise, the Air’s already closing in, packing considerable power under the hood—enough to get me to switch one for the other. I traded my souped-up 13-inch MacBook Pro (2010) for an even more powerful 11-inch MacBook Air a few months ago, swapping the Pro’s poky Core 2 Duo processor for a 1.6GHz Intel i5 capable of ramping up to 2.3GHz in turbo boost mode. That, and the solid state drives in the Air absolutely destroy the plodding spindle-driven default ones in the Pro. The only thing I’m losing, compared with a 15-inch Pro, is screen real estate: 1366 x 768 pixels on 11 inches versus the Pro’s 1440 x 900 on 15.

(MORE: Apple’s Hush-Hush MacBook Pro Refresh)

Apple quietly refreshed the MacBook Pro just last week, bumping up the i5 and i7 processors in the 13-, 15- and 17-inch models by a few hundred megahertz each, but the Pro’s chunkier, heavier aluminum frame remained untouched.

It sounds like that could soon change, as work on an ultra-thin 15-inch Mac is rumored to be wrapping up. Japanese blog Macotakara cites a July MacRumors story about Apple “finishing up work” on an ultra-thin 15-inch Mac laptop, then adds that, according to an “asian source,” Apple has already completed development of a 15-inch MacBook Air LCD and will be adding it to the MacBook Air lineup.

We’re talking rumors built on rumors, mind you, but it’s not inconceivable, and actually makes a lot of sense. A 15-inch frame that shares the Air’s blade-like tapering and absent optical drive would still be slightly thicker, possibly big enough to accommodate the faster i5 and i7 CPUs and perhaps even one of AMD’s dedicated graphics cards, like the current Pro’s AMD Radeon HD 6490M. The Radeon HD 6490M would be a boon to ultra-mobile 3D artists, as well as gamers flipping over to Windows in Boot Camp for a little World of Warcraft or StarCraft II on the go. And there’s the weight advantage of consider: The current 15-inch MacBook Pro weighs 5.6 pounds. The 13-inch MacBook Air tops out at 2.96 pounds, about 0.6 pounds heavier than the 11-inch version. I’d wager a 15-inch MacBook Pro might clock in at under four.

When? If it’s introduced as part of the Air lineup, probably sometime early 2012, when the next logical Air update comes due.

MORE: A Super Thin 15-inch MacBook Pro Means Apple’s Going Cloud or Bust

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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