Rumors are flying around (according to sources close to MacRumors.com) that Apple is set to launch two new MacBook Airs set for 15 and 17 inches, the same size as the MacBook Pro counterparts. Why would Apple do this? The better question: Why not? The optical drive likely causes the biggest problems with design since it consumes lots of space. It's also not exactly energy efficient and the printing of physical media isn't 'green' either.
Thus, Apple may see a true market for customers who want the large desktop real-estate, without the bulk. Drop the optical drive in the MacBook Pro, pop in an SSD and suddenly, you have a super-thin "Pro"-styled MacBook Air. The new MacBook Airs are already coming with Core i7 CPUs, so power users don't have to fret -- these machines could be very beefy and provide all the under-the-hood power a video or photo editor would need.
Even if the rumored machines aren't as thin as their 11- and 13-inch counterparts, they would still be considerably thinner and lighter that the existing MacBook Pro line. If Apple truly was nodding to the needs of a professional user, the company may even include user-replaceable RAM that isn't soldiered to the main board like the smaller MacBook Airs, in addition to extra USB and Thunderbolt ports. The current 17 inch MacBook monster weighs 6.6lbs. so an "Air" version could weigh easily half that with an optical drive gone. That extra space also means Apple has a lot more room to shove batteries, so a 15- or 17-inch MacBook Air could have legendary battery life up to 10 hours or more. The 13-inch MacBook Air already has two hours over its 11-inch counterpart.
How soon can we except Apple to make the new MacBook Airs available? Some sites say that we can expect to purchase them by the late 2011 holiday season.
What does this mean for the future of the MacBook Pro as we know it? I'm betting in the next year or two, the MacBook Pro will be a special item, a single item, or a custom order item, specifically for professionals who need everything, much like the Mac Pro. And like I alluded to recently, Apple may do the same thing with iMacs, making them thinner and lighter, too.
Ask yourself: How often do you really use that DVD drive? When was the last time you copied media off a CD? I have a draw full of flash drives and USB hard drive adapters that see more action than my entire DVD collection. Optical media is dying, and the MacBook Pro -- as we know it -- might be dying with it.